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Bush 'Confident' Compromise Can Be Reached On SCHIP Legislation

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday asked Republicansto vote to override President Bush's veto of SCHIP legislation, addingthat her goal in the several hours before the vote is to "dispel mythsand misconceptions" about the bill, The Hill reports. "We're still in the fight," Pelosi said (Kaplan, The Hill, 10/17).

Bushearlier this month vetoed legislation that would have provided anadditional $35 billion in funding for the program 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, 10/17).

Atleast five of the eight House Democrats who initially voted against thebill said they will vote to override the veto, including Reps. KathyCastor (Fla.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Mike McIntyre(N.C.) and Bob Etheridge (N.C.), according to McClatchy Newspapers. Reps. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) said they will not change their vote (Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers, 10/17). In addition, two other Democrats who were absent or voted present will vote to override the veto (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/18). The House needs 12 to 15 more votes to override the veto (Panaritis, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/18).

NoRepublican who voted against the bill "has publicly acknowledged achange in position," although Republicans "who have decided to changetheir vote might have decided not to announce it ahead of time to avoidangering party leaders," according to CQ Today. However, it is "not yet clear how Democrats will proceed after the expected failure of an override," CQ Today reports. (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/17).

Bush Administration

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Bush on Wednesday said that he will use his veto of the SCHIP bill to weigh in on the future of the program and has assigned HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, National Economic Council Director Al Hubbard and White House Budget Director Jim Nussle to negotiate with Congress, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18).

Bushsaid he is "confident we can work out our differences" to reach a"common ground" on SCHIP. Neither Bush "nor his three emissariesoffered any changes to the administration's standing position thateligibility" for SCHIP must not be increased, but instead "reiteratedthat the president is willing to add more money to help those who areeligible for the program but" not enrolled, according to CongressDaily (Koffler, CongressDaily, 10/17).

However, what "seems unclear" in Bush's strategy "is whether Bush wants compromise or confrontation," the Washington Post reports.While aides "have talked enthusiastically about vetoing spending billsto re-establish his credentials as a fiscal conservative," some seniorSenate Republicans "have complained that the White House showed nogenuine interest in finding accord on the children's health care billthat he vetoed," according to the Post (Baker, Washington Post, 10/18).

Inan attempt to give Republicans "much-needed cover for the 2008 electioncampaign," Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) on Thursday is expected tointroduce SCHIP legislation written with input from the Bushadministration that would increase funding for the program by $11.5billion and includes a $1,400 tax credit per child for families withincomes too high to qualify for the program, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck/McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 10/18).

Next Moves

If the House is unable to override Bush's veto, Democrats will notallow SCHIP to expire, but they will approve multiple extensions of thecurrent program and revotes on the compromise legislation "to keep theissue hanging over the GOP's head between now and the 2008 elections," Roll Callreports. Democrats see the override vote as "a political victory eitherway -- accomplishing a major expansion of health insurance for childrenor having an issue to caricature the Republicans as blind to the needsof the country's working-class kids," according to Roll Call (Dennis/Pierce, Roll Call, 10/16).

Meanwhile,Republicans are "talking about how to salvage themselves politically,"Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) said, adding, "The president has alreadydropped his bluster about socialized medicine. If they try to find away to thread this needle so that they can save face, we need toaccommodate them, but only to a very limited extent that does notweaken coverage" (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 10/18).

SenateMajority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he might be willing to "tweaksomething" in the SCHIP bill to help Bush "save face" but said he wasunwilling to negotiate any further (Pear, New York Times, 10/18). House Ways and Means CommitteeChair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is skeptical of this approach becausewhen he asked House Republicans what changes would need to be made tothe bill to gain their support, "most of the people didn't even want totalk about changing their vote because they're afraid of the WhiteHouse" (Johnson/Wegener, CongressDaily, 10/17). Democratshave said that if Bush vetoes a second version of the bill, they willsend him a third version just before Election Day 2008 (New York Times, 10/18).

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.