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Democrats Will Not Compromise With President Bush On SCHIP

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday saidcongressional Democratic leaders will not compromise with PresidentBush on SCHIP, after Bush on Wednesday vetoed legislation that wouldhave reauthorized and expanded the program, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Democratic leaders said that no matter the outcome of the override vote, they would not negotiate further (Babington, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/4).

TheHouse on Wednesday won a procedural vote that allowed them to postponeuntil Oct. 18 a vote to override a veto of compromise SCHIPlegislation. The compromise bill would have provided an additional $35billion in funding over the next five years and increased totalspending on the program to $60 billion. The additional funding wouldhave been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/4).

Reidsaid, "We're not going to compromise." He added that Bush's comment onWednesday that he might be willing to add a "little more money" to theprogram is "an insult." According to Reid, the House in approving thecompromise bill "basically took [the Senate's] position with very fewchanges. You cannot wring another ounce of compromise out of it"(Pierce, Roll Call, 10/4). Reid and other Democrats onThursday at a press event used piles of fake money as they criticizedBush "for losing $9 billion of taxpayer funds in one year in Iraq andvetoing $7 billion a year for children's health care," the Washington Times reports (Miller, Washington Times, 10/5).

Override Efforts

Efforts to win Republican support in order to override Bush's veto"might involve a new bill that costs less than the $35 billion"compromise bill, according to CongressDaily. The changeslikely would involve the overall cost of the bill and incomeeligibility levels. However, changes likely would occur only after afailed override vote, CongressDaily reports.

Rep.Phil English (R-Pa.) said, "The changes necessary to get moreRepublicans on the margins are actually fairly modest." House MinorityWhip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Republicans realize the need to be flexibleon funding amounts. "Five billion is not enough," Blunt said, referringto Bush's SCHIP proposal that would have funded the program at $5billion over five years. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saidthat Democrats have "compromised all we could compromise" but notedthat she always is willing to talk (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 10/5).

Presidential Candidates

Four Republican presidential candidates -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) -- said they support Bush's SCHIP veto, "once again testing thepolitical risk of appearing in lock step with a president who has lowapproval ratings and some critics of the veto within their party," the New York Timesreports. By supporting the veto, the candidates "are mindful of theconcern of fiscal conservatives that expanding the program could resultin huge future costs," and, in discussing the veto, "have focusedlargely on what they see as drawbacks in" SCHIP, "rather than trying torally behind President Bush or criticize the supporters of the bill,"according to the Times.

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McCain on Thursday inSouth Carolina said, "I certainly would favor an increase" in SCHIP,"but I think that a $35 billion increase which is funded by a bogusproposal which is a, quote, one dollar increase tax on cigarettes andsomewhere around 2012 it basically disappears is not an unfundedliability I think we ought to lay on the next generation."

Giulianion Thursday said, "Half to two-thirds of the children that they'regoing to take care of already have private insurance," adding, "They'regoing to move them to the government. It is not just a beginning, it'sa big step in the direction of government-controlled medicine" (Healy, New York Times, 10/5).

State Efforts

In related news, Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) on Thursday called for Congress to override Bush's veto, the Virginian-Pilot reports (Simpson/Fiske, Virginian-Pilot,10/5). Kaine's comments "were part of a coordinated effort by Democratsnationwide to step up pressure on Republicans in Congress to overrideBush's veto," according to the Washington Post (Craig, Washington Post, 10/5). According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch,SCHIP "is the latest national issue to be injected into statehousecontests that traditionally hinge on local concerns." Kaine on Thursdaysaid that SCHIP "points out some things about priorities, and votersought to take that into account" in local elections (Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/5).

Eligibility Rules Lawsuit

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) on Thursday announced that New York hasjoined Illinois, Maryland and Washington state in a lawsuit against HHS to challenge new rules announced by the Bush administration that are designed to limit SCHIP enrollment, the AP/Albany Times-Union reports. Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Mexico have filed amicus briefs in support of the suit (AP/Albany Times-Union,10/5). Under the rules, announced in August, states must demonstratethat they have enrolled at least 95% of children in the state infamilies with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level who areeligible for Medicaid or SCHIP before expanding eligibility to childrenin families with incomes greater than 250% of the poverty level.

Thelawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District ofNew York, alleges that the rules overstep the federal government'sauthority to set income limits for SCHIP beneficiaries. New Jerseyearlier this week filed a separate lawsuit against the federalgovernment, alleging that the Bush administration is trying to impose"mandatory, rigid and illegal" income limits on SCHIP beneficiaries byimposing "arbitrary and capricious" new rules on the program, accordingto the suit (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/2).

Spitzersaid, "It is a tragic day when we have to sue our own president fordenying health care coverage to children who cannot afford it" (Osburn,Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 10/5).

Pay/Go Rules

House Democrats and Republicans on Thursday "launched a war of words"over pay/go rules that apply to new entitlement or tax legislation, CongressDaily reports. House Budget CommitteeChair John Spratt (D-S.C.) released a report that found of about 360House bills passed this year -- including 30 with spending or revenueimpacts of $1 million or more -- all have complied with pay/go rules.Pelosi said that 80% of the offsets have come from reducing spendingrather than raising taxes. Republicans said that Democrats' pay/go ruleis "riddled with gimmicks," according to CongressDaily.

BudgetCommittee ranking member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that most of the majorinitiatives that Democrats have pushed through, including SCHIP, havebeen paid for with "gimmicks, fees or tax increases." Ryan said thatwhen Republicans were in charge, they also used gimmicks to hide thetrue cost of a bill but added, "It's not enough to say Republicansbroke the rules, so it's OK if we do it. We can't accept that anymore." In addition, Ryan said that pay/go rules are an excuse to raisetaxes, such as the cigarette tax present in the SCHIP bill (Cohn, CongressDaily, 10/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.