Democrats May Vote On Stand-Alone SCHIP Reauthorization Bill
The House next week plans to vote on SCHIP expansion legislation similar to a bill that President Bush vetoed in 2007, Dow Jones reports (Boles, Dow Jones, 1/7). According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House will consider the legislation as a stand-alone bill, rather than as part of an economic stimulus package (Edney, CongressDaily, 1/7).
The House likely will vote on the legislation on Tuesday or Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said (Litvan/Marcus, Bloomberg, 1/7). He added, "We want to get this to the president as quickly as possible; therefore, we're going to rely on the bill pretty much as it passed" in 2007 (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/7).
The legislation will include an increase in the federal cigarette tax to fund the SCHIP expansion, although the cost of the bill remains undetermined. The 2007 bill, which supporters believe would have increased SCHIP enrollment from six million to 10 million, would have raised the tax by 61 cents per pack (Freking, AP/Miami Herald, 1/7). The 2007 bill would have cost an estimated $35 million over five years (Rubenstein, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 1/7). House Democratic leaders hope to expand SCHIP enrollment to 11 million under the new legislation, according to Nadeam Elshami, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The length of time for which the legislation would expand SCHIP also remains undetermined (CongressDaily, 1/7).
In a letter to Hoyer, Pelosi and Waxman, House Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) wrote that the legislation should not include concessions included in the 2007 bill to attract support from Republicans because the "current political situation is quite different than it was during the 110th Congress" (CQ Today, 1/7). DeGette said, "I want to stress the importance of looking at the program in a new light now that we no longer have the threat of a presidential veto" (Bloomberg, 1/7).
Hoyer said that Congress likely will pass the SCHIP expansion legislation despite Republican opposition, and that he expects President-elect Barack Obama to sign the bill into law after he takes office (CongressDaily, 1/7). The legislation "will become law in the fairly near term," Hoyer said (Bloomberg, 1/7).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the Senate also will consider SCHIP expansion legislation as a stand-alone bill after the chamber holds votes on land use and pay equity legislation (CongressDaily, 1/7).
Priorities for Senate Democrats
Senate Democrats this week outlined their priorities for the 111th Congress in 10 shell bills that include several health care proposals. The stimulus package, which likely will include additional federal funds for state Medicaid programs, received the "symbolically important designation of S 1," and health care reform legislation received the designation of S 4, CQ Today reports.
In addition, Senate Democrats seek to repeal several rules issued by the Bush administration, such as additional restrictions under the Family and Medical Leave Act and a regulation related to Medicaid outpatient services (Jansen, CQ Today, 1/7).
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