House Passes Revised SCHIP Health Insurance Bill

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State Children's Health Insurance Program

The House on Thursday voted 265-142 to approve a modified bill thatwould reauthorize and expand SCHIP, again falling short of thetwo-thirds necessary to override a veto, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 10/26).

The revised legislation -- which is similar to the bill vetoedby President Bush earlier this month -- would expand SCHIP to cover 10million children and increase spending on the program to $35 billionover five years, funded with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federalcigarette tax. The bill would limit coverage to children in familieswith annual incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/25).

Forty-threeRepublicans and 222 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Only oneDemocrat, Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga.), opposed the measure (Pugh, McClatchy/Miami Herald,10/26). None of the Republicans who voted against the previous billvoted in favor of the revised version, and one Republican who voted infavor of the previous bill, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), voted againstthe new version. Ehlers said that the bill had not received enoughinput from Republicans and that it was rushed to a vote.

Democratssaid the revised bill "addressed all the major concerns that promptedRepublicans to oppose the earlier version," according to the Times.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the restrictions oncoverage of adults, undocumented immigrants and higher-income familieswere clear in the original bill and "are even clearer in the secondbill" (New York Times, 10/26).

Debate

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Democratic CaucusChair Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) met with about 20 moderate Republicans onThursday morning to go "point by point down their list of complaints"to convince them that their concerns had been addressed, according tothe Washington Post.

However,the Democrats instead "got an earful from Republicans, angry thatconsultations had come only after the bill was filed," the Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post,10/26). Republicans said that "some changes Democrats touted in thecurrent version are cosmetic," which is one reason they did not votefor the revised bill, according to CQ Today (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/25).

Pelosiafter the vote "tried to put a positive face on the setback," but"Thursday's vote was an obvious disappointment and left the majorityleadership vulnerable to criticism that their strategy of hastilycrafting the legislation and then pushing for an immediate vote wasflawed," according to McClatchy/Miami Herald (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/26).

Inaddition, the way in which the bill was negotiated with moderate HouseRepublicans "created a situation where Democrats and Republicansweren't really working side by side until the bill was rushed to thefloor," and at the "same time, Republican moderates felt uncomfortablebeing pushed at the expense of their leadership," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/26).

Senate Democrats said they expect to pass the new bill next week (New York Times,10/26). According to Hoyer, it is possible that additional changescould be made to the bill before it is sent to the president. But headded that he doesn't "want to be strung along" by Republicans who arenot truly interested in a bipartisan compromise (Espo, AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/26).

Bush Response

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Bush has threatened to veto the modified legislation (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times,10/26). The White House on Thursday in a Statement of AdministrativePolicy said that the revised bill "has not addressed in a meaningfulway the objections that caused the president to veto" the previousversion of the legislation (CQ Today, 10/25).

Theadministration said that the revised bill still does not ensure thatlow-income children will be covered first and does not providesufficient guarantees that undocumented immigrants will not be able toenroll (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/26). Bush reiterated his strong support for the reauthorization of SCHIP "in a way that puts poor people first" (Kaplan, The Hill, 10/26).

In addition, the Office of Management and Budget on Thursday issued a policy statement urging Bush to veto the bill (Yachnin, Roll Call, 10/25).

Timing

Moderate Republicans who support the SCHIP bill said that holding thevote so quickly after its drafting "made it impossible for opponents tochange their minds," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily,10/25). In addition, several Republican members asked Democrats topostpone the vote because seven House lawmakers are in their homedistricts in California to help constituents affected by the wildfires.

Pelosi defended her decision, adding, "We all understand howimportant it is for members to be home with their constituents," but"that doesn't mean that we don't continue with the work of thegovernment." Republicans said Pelosi's decision was "a scheme to takeadvantage of GOP absences," according to MediaNews/Contra Costa Times. However, Pelosi said she spoke with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who urged her to vote on the bill (Friedman, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 10/26).

Pelosi also said she had no choice but to move quickly in order to send the bill to Bush next week (New York Times, 10/26). The temporary extension of SCHIP expires Nov. 18 (CQ Today,10/25). Pelosi said, "If Republicans believe in SCHIP as they say theydo ... then they won't be looking for an excuse to vote against thebill" (New York Times, 10/26).

Next Steps

Thursday's vote "almost certainly represents the last set of changessponsors will make to the proposal before going to a continuingresolution that could last until the fall of next year," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily,10/26). Democrats in September or October 2008 could "then schedule avote on the issue ... in hopes of inflicting maximum political damageon Republicans just before the 2008 election," according to the Times (New York Times, 10/26).

CongressDailyreports that Republican leaders said that they "are prepared for thelong haul," and although they expect to take a political hit in theshort term, they also "are expecting the extra time will give themplenty of chances to state their case." A Republican aide said, "Surethe attacks hurt, but the children will be funded, which takes away alot of ... (Democrats') bite" (CongressDaily, 10/26).

Comments

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, "This is not a perfect bill," but it "is an excellent bipartisan compromise" (Roll Call,10/25). Hoyer said, "These are significant, concrete changes -- changesthat neither affect nor undermine our principal objective andcommitment to insure more than 10 million American children" (Washington Times,10/26). Emanuel said, "It's unfortunate that even after a week ofmeetings and adjustments to the bill at the Republicans' request theywould still apparently prefer to play politics instead of reauthorizinga program the vast majority of the country supports" (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/26).

Rep.Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said, "I used to think [Democrats] cared about thepolicy. Now I think they care more about the politics" (Washington Post,10/26). Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said, "The new bill puts lipstickon a sow," adding, "Today is raw politics -- trotting out a vote justfor the sake of a vote" (New York Times, 10/26).

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 HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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