Kids’ Health Debate Could Shape Republicans’ Image
The State Children's Health Insurance Program debate "is fast becoming a proxy for a larger discussion" about how the Republican party "wants to present itself to voters," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/12).
President Bush last week vetoed an SCHIP compromise measure that would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding over the next five years and increased total SCHIP spending to $60 billion. The additional funding would have been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax. An override vote in the House is scheduled for Thursday (California Healthline, 10/12).
Many Republicans believe the party needs to "reach beyond its base and offer positive policy options to be seen as a real alternative" to Democratic candidates, according to the Journal. Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said, "The reason we lost the last elections wasn't because our party didn't show up," adding, "We got 91% of the Republican votes for Congress. We lost independents by 17%. That's where we have to go."
House Republicans -- "[s]ecure in tailored districts" and "leaning to the right" -- are "betting they can weather" an advertising campaign targeting members who vetoed the SCHIP bill and "still successfully support the president's position," the Journal reports. However, Senate Republicans, "who must appeal to a greater number of statewide, low-income constituents," are "finding it hard to ignore" the independent voters who supported Democrats in the last election, according to the Journal.
The Journal notes that the White House "is confident that it will prevail" in the override vote, but "a win for the president doesn't erase the long-term challenge for Republicans to unify around a coherent message on health care, an issue on which Democrats -- especially the party's presidential candidates -- have taken the lead" (Wall Street Journal, 10/12).
The Mobile Press-Register on Thursday examined how, as a "graying population consumes an ever larger slice of federal spending, some children's advocates worry that the generational gap will only grow." Federal entitlement programs that serve the elderly population, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, receive as much federal funding as they need to fulfill benefits, while spending levels for programs that serve children, such as SCHIP, must be reauthorized and reset every several years.
For example, the Medicare prescription drug benefit cost the federal government about $50 billion in fiscal year 2007, according to Brian Riedl, senior budget analyst with the Heritage Foundation. That funding level is about six times what the vetoed SCHIP compromise bill would have cost this fiscal year, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate (Reilly, Mobile Press-Register, 10/11).