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House Republican Leaders Have Votes To Sustain President's Veto Of SCHIP Legislation

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State Children's Health Insurance Program

Republican leaders say they are confident President Bush's veto oflegislation that would have reauthorized and expanded SCHIP will besustained, and House Democratic leaders on Sunday said they will passanother version of SCHIP legislation if the House fails to override theveto, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 10/15).

Bushearlier this month vetoed the SCHIP compromise measure, which wouldhave provided an additional $35 billion in funding over the next fiveyears and increased total SCHIP spending to $60 billion. The additionalfunding would have been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in thetobacco tax. An override vote in the House is scheduled for Thursday (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/12).

HouseMajority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on "Fox News Sunday" thatSCHIP is "not going to die." If the House fails to override the veto,Congress is "going to go back, and we're going to pass another bill,"Hoyer said (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/15).

HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday also spoke about SCHIP onABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," saying, "We'll try veryhard to override" the veto, but "one thing's for sure: We won't restuntil those 10 million children have health care" (Washington Times,10/15). Pelosi did not offer details on how a new bill would differfrom the vetoed compromise measure, but criticized Bush for beingunwilling to negotiate a solution (Los Angeles Times,10/15). Democrats will "talk to the president at the right time, whenhe makes an overture to do so, but not an overture that says, 'This isthe only thing I'm going to sign,'" Pelosi said (Yen, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/14).

Senate Finance CommitteeChair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in the Democrats' weekly radio address said,"Every Republican must decide whether they will stand with thepresident and his veto, or stand with our children and their right to ahealthy future" (Jalonick, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/13).

Republican Response

White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said that Bush has said he is"willing to work with members of both parties from both houses" onSCHIP. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on "Fox News Sunday"said that he hopes Democrats negotiate with Republicans after the vetooverride fails so that the program can be reauthorized. Boehner said,"We will have the votes to sustain the president's veto," adding thatRepublicans are "standing on our principle that poor kids ought to comefirst" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/14). Boehner said Republicans are open to compromise (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 10/15).

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SenateMinority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday on "This Week" saidthat he doubted that the SCHIP debate would have any negative effectson Republicans' election campaigns. McConnell said, "This is going tobe like a pebble in the ocean, a short-term controversy, a big partisanstruggle, and then it's going to be over" (Washington Times, 10/15).

Rep.Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) criticized Democrats for delaying the overridevote, saying, "I would have much rather spent the time working to comeup with a bill which is financially sound and guarantees poor Americanchildren are the first in line to receive benefits." He added, "By thetime we vote ... we will have wasted two important weeks and have lessthan a month to come up with a plan" (Hay Brown/Nitkin, Baltimore Sun, 10/15).

Final Days

In the days remaining before Thursday's override vote, Democrats andother SCHIP supporters "are hitting the airwaves, staging rallies andmaking a blizzard of phone calls as they try to pressure RepublicanHouse members" to support the measure, the New York Timesreports. The "intensity" of lobbying efforts "underscores theDemocrats' growing confidence that some Republicans could be imperilingtheir re-election prospects next year by choosing to back" Bush,according to the Times (Hernandez/Pear, New York Times, 10/13).

Administrationofficials have asked House Republicans to remain positive and ride outthe negative press. Bush senior adviser Ed Gillespie said that ifRepublicans had sided with Democrats, they would be in a more difficultposition because they would be subject to criticism from conservatives.However, Gillespie's advice "was small solace to congressionalRepublicans who worry that the White House does not fully appreciatetheir political difficulties" and that Bush "has put them in harm's waywith his opposition" to SCHIP, the New York Times reports.

Rep. John Kuhl (R-N.Y.) said, "The president has let the debate on health care down by not offering an alternative" (Hulse, New York Times,10/14). However, Kevin Smith, spokesperson for Boehner said, "TheDemocrats' efforts to pressure members to switch their votes has been acomplete and total failure" (New York Times, 10/13). Rep.Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said, "Renewing SCHIP should have been a simpleprocess because the concept of providing health coverage to low-incomefamilies has broad bipartisan support," but Democrats "made changesthat would expand the program dramatically, increase taxes and open thedoor for a European-style socialized medicine system" (Chandler, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 10/12).

Catholics United

Catholics United will air radio advertisements Monday through Wednesdaytargeting lawmakers who have taken positions against abortion who votedagainst SCHIP, CongressDaily reports. The ads, which willrun on Christian and talk radio stations, feature a mother saying thata vote against SCHIP contradicts "pro-life" and "pro-family"principles. The ads will target Reps. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), MicheleBachmann (R-Minn.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio),Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), JosephKnollenberg (R-Mich.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and John Peterson(R-Penn.) (Wegner/Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/12).

Related Coverage

Summaries of other newspaper coverage of the SCHIP debate appear below.

  • New York Times:"New Jersey has long been one of the most aggressive states in thenation in throwing a wide safety net out" to lower-income residentsthrough its "ambitious" SCHIP, which covers children in families withannual incomes of up to 350% of the federal poverty level, the Times reports. Under recent eligibility rules created by the Bush administration, about 11,000 children would losecoverage under SCHIP and "[s]till more would be cut from the program... as increases in health care costs deplete the children's healthinsurance coffers," according to state health officials (Kershaw, New York Times, 10/14).
  • New York Times:Rep. Roscoe Barlett (R-Md.), the only representative from the state tovote against the SCHIP bill, is "coming under intense pressure toswitch sides as the House moves toward" the veto override vote, the Timesreports. Bartlett "is confident" that his vote against the bill"reflect[s] the views of his conservative" district, but "some of hisconstituents are not so sure," according to the Times (Pear, New York Times, 10/15).
  • USA Today: USA Todayon Monday examined how Knollenberg -- one of the approximately 20Republicans who have been targeted to switch their votes against SCHIP-- "steadfastly refuses to endorse giving government health insuranceto families of four" with annual incomes of more than about $40,000(Wolf, USA Today, 10/15).
  • Wall Street Journal:Republicans "are taking a stand" on SCHIP because the debate over theprogram "foreshadows a bigger showdown expected after a new presidenttakes office in 2009" and because "[l]osing the veto fight would alsobadly undermine the president," the Wall Street Journalreports. If Democrats cannot override Bush's veto, they might still"win a big political victory by dragging out the fight and forcingRepublicans to vote repeatedly against the program, which could make analready uphill battle even steeper for Republicans seeking re-electionin close contests next fall," according to the Journal (Timiraos, Wall Street Journal, 10/13).
  • Washington Post:"For families on the edge -- neither comfortably middle class nor trulylow income -- Thursday's" override "vote is not just one of the mostdramatic political skirmishes of the year but also a referendum onwhether people like them deserve the government's help in making surethat their kids have health coverage," the Post reports.Of the 9.4 million uninsured U.S. children younger than age 19, 1.4million are in families with annual incomes between 200% and 300% ofthe poverty level, according to researcher Genevieve Kenney of the Urban Institute (Lee, Washington Post, 10/14).

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.