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Senate Votes To Limit Debate On Revised Bill To Reauthorize, Expand SCHIP

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State Children's Health Insurance Program

The Senate on Wednesday cleared a procedural hurdle for revised legislation (HR 3963) that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP, voting 62-33 to invoke cloture, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 11/1). The legislation -- which is similar to the bill vetoed by 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. The Houselast week failed to pass the revised bill with a veto-proof majority (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/31).

Thecloture vote needed 60 votes in favor to pass. Sens. Kay BaileyHutchison (R-Texas) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), two Republicans who voted infavor of SCHIP legislation in the past, voted against the measure.Hutchison said she issued her vote to demonstrate her objection toDemocrats' refusal to compromise with the White House, adding that shewill vote in favor when the legislation comes to a final vote(Mittelstadt, Houston Chronicle, 11/1).

Thenext vote on the bill, a motion to call up the House-passed bill, willoccur at 1 a.m. on Friday unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can reachan agreement to hold the vote at another time, Reid said. The vote onthe bill will occur "well into next week," according to CQ Today (Wayne [1], CQ Today, 10/31).

Wednesday Afternoon Meeting

Senate and House leaders continued closed-door discussions on a possible compromise amendment to be added to the bill. Senate Finance CommitteeChair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that he and other lawmakers whoattended the meetings expect to know by Thursday afternoon if they willbe able to reach a compromise (Wayne [2], CQ Today,10/31). Baucus said, "Frankly, there's an agreement on $35 billion,covering more kids," and "tobacco taxes haven't come up" as acontentious issue for House Republicans. He added, "We've basicallyagreed in concept, generally -- I don't want to say specifically -- onmost matters."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) indicated that thetalks were not close to concluding. Lawmakers have "only a few days tocraft an amendment that could win over enough House Republicans tooverride an expected veto," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily,11/1). Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and McConnellcriticized negotiators for not including Senate Republican leadershipin the meetings with Senate Finance Committee members and HouseRepublican leadership. Grassley responded, "It makes no sense tonegotiate with members who are trying to kill the bill" (Young, The Hill, 11/1).

House Republican Participants

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Whip RoyBlunt (R-Mo.) are participating in the talks with Senate leadership,"even though it is unlikely either of them will vote for a bill thatraises taxes," according to the AP/Contra Costa Times.

Boehnerand Blunt presented a proposal that would require a 90% enrollment ratefor children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of thepoverty level before states can expand eligibility to higher incomelevels. The proposal also would require that all adults, except forpregnant women, be shifted from SCHIP to Medicaid starting Oct. 1,2008. In addition, the proposal would limit eligibility to familieswith assets of less than $1 million and would require those seeking toenroll to provide a birth certificate as proof of U.S. citizenship. Theproposal does not mention the tobacco tax increase (Espo, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/31).

AlthoughHouse Republicans attending the meetings do not make up the 12-15additional votes needed to override a veto, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)said that he thinks the lawmakers could persuade others to vote for thebill. If Senate and House negotiators agree on substantive changes,then the changes will need to be vetted through House and Senateleadership to ensure that no Democratic support is lost, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 11/1).

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White House Objections

The White House on Wednesday in a statement of administration policysaid that Bush would veto the bill "if it is presented to him withoutsignificant changes," CQ Today reports (Wayne [1], CQ Today,10/31). Bush said that the bill "fails to cover poor children first"and "shifts children with private insurance onto the government rolls,and it uses taxpayers' dollars to subsidize middle-class families, andfinally, it raises taxes" (New York Times, 11/1).

In a speech on Wednesday to the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association, Bush's "aggressive" tone "had the appearance of throwing down a political gauntlet," according to the AP/Boston Herald (AP/Boston Herald, 10/31).

Grassleyon Wednesday said that the White House is "throwing cold water in [his]face" by objecting to the SCHIP bill because it uses a cigarette taxincrease as a funding mechanism, the Des Moines Registerreports. Grassley said that "this is the first time it's come to myattention that this tax issue is an issue with the White House."

HHSSecretary Mike Leavitt has met with lawmakers several times to reviewWhite House objections to the bill and has never mentioned an objectionto the cigarette tax, according to Grassley. As lawmakers get closer toreaching an agreement on the bill, Bush "comes up with another item" toobject, Grassley said (Norman, Des Moines Register, 11/1).Reid also criticized Bush for appearing to alter his reason forobjecting to the SCHIP bill, noting that in his speech on Wednesday,Bush indicated that the tobacco tax was his primary reason for vetoingthe bill. Previously, Bush objected to the bill for its eligibilitystandards, Reid said (Wayne [1], CQ Today, 10/31).

Ad Buys

In related news, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will launch its fourth advertising buy against seven politically vulnerable Republicans who oppose SCHIP, the Washington Timesreports. DCCC Chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, "Across thecountry, Republicans are feeling the heat for supporting President Bushinstead of the health care for America's kids." The ads target Reps.Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Richard Baker (R-La.),Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), Ric Keller (R-Fla.), Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.)and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

National Republican Congressional Committeespokesperson Julie Shutley said, "You'd think that if Democrats havethe time for a fourth round of attack ads on this, they'd have time tocome to the table for a compromise." Shutley said that GOP members whovoted against the bill have done a "good job" of explaining their voteto constituents (Pfeiffer, Washington Times, 11/1).

Immigration Issues

The Hillon Thursday examined how there "have been few words spoken in thiscongressional session that have caused as much emotional rhetoric as'illegal immigration' -- which is exactly why Republican leaders havemade sure they stay front and center," including in the debate overSCHIP.

Republican Study CommitteeChair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said that Democrats are pursuing astrategy to extend more government benefits to undocumented immigrants.Hensarling said, "Whether it be for housing benefits and agricultureappropriations, or whether it be in SCHIP, what we see is language tomake it easier for illegal immigrants to access these benefits."

Rep.Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said that Republicans use the immigrationargument because they know it is inflammatory, adding that theHouse-passed SCHIP bill does not extend benefits to undocumentedimmigrants (Kucinich, The Hill, 11/1).

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.