Senate Approves Expanding, Reauthorize SCHIP

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State Children's Health Insurance Program

The Senate on Thursday voted 64-30 to approve revised legislation (HR 3963) that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP, the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 11/2). No Democrats voted against the bill, and it had the support of 17 Republicans (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/2).

The 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. The Houselast week failed to pass the revised bill with a veto-proof majority (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/1).

SenateRepublicans on Thursday objected to Democrats' request to delay thevote, and it "appeared their goal was to short-circuit attempts bysupporters of the bill to reach a compromise that could attract enoughvotes in the House to override Bush's veto," according to the AP/Houston Chronicle (Espo, AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/2). Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), who was leading negotiations with Senate Finance CommitteeChair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said, "The talks were making really goodprogress," but "everything changed" after Senate Minority Leader MitchMcConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.)"objected to postponing a Senate vote" on the bill (Pear, New York Times, 11/2).

Rep.Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) on Thursday said, "There are areas of disagreementright now in the bill," adding, "[W]e're talking about options toresolve them, which really gets us to the issue of crafting language,which is where we were last night" (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/2).

Future Efforts

Biggert said that several issues still remain but that the two sideshad reached an agreement on the number of children in families withincomes less than 200% of the poverty level who must be covered beforechildren in families with higher incomes would be eligible (AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/2). Baucus said that negotiators will meet again on Nov. 6 to continue discussions (Armstrong, CQ Today, 11/1).

Hesaid that opponents of the bill "have succeeded in stopping us today,"adding that he hoped lawmakers "will reach an agreement soon."McConnell also was optimistic that "we will be able to get this workout" as soon as more Republicans are included in the negotiations (New York Times, 11/2).

Democratic CaucusChair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said, "It's ironic that the House wantedmore time and the Senate Republicans wanted less," adding, "Threedifferent positions in three weeks leads me to guess that there was onegoal here: Try to kill the bill" (Kaplan, The Hill, 11/2).

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Course of Action

Now, lawmakers "appear to have just two choices: pass a temporaryextension of the children's health insurance program at existing orslightly higher funding levels or try a third time to pass the sort ofcomprehensive overhaul that Democrats and some Republicans havesought," according to CQ Today (CQ Today, 11/1). The program, currently authorized with a continuing resolution, will run out of funding Nov. 16 (Marcus, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/2).

SenateMajority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Baucus said that lawmakerswould not rush to hold an override vote, giving negotiators more timeto reach a compromise (CQ Today, 11/1). Reid said he plans to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) not to hold an override vote (The Hill, 11/2). Democrats also could try to use a procedural maneuver to avoid sending the bill to Bush at all (CQ Today, 11/1). Reid said, "We should let things simmer for a while" (New York Times,11/2). If lawmakers reach a compromise for a third version of the bill,Pelosi has said that the House will consider the bill (CQ Today, 11/1).

Republican Role

McConnell said that Senate Republicans "are committed to finding commonground on this issue, but we cannot do it alone," adding, "We mustforge a bipartisan compromise to maintain current coverage and extendcoverage to additional low-income children which the president cansign" (Washington Times, 11/2).

White House presssecretary Dana Perino in a statement after the vote said, "Congress hasknown for weeks that the president would veto this bill," adding, "NowCongress should get back to work on legislation that covers poorchildren and stop using valuable floor time to make partisanstatements" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/2).

However, House Energy and Commerce Health SubcommitteeChair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said that Bush's objection to thecigarette tax increase "basically means he is no longer a player inthis" because any compromise bill will include the tax. He added, "Theeffort really has to be to find enough Republicans to override hisveto. We're obviously going to try, either in one week or six months,to override the veto" (CongressDaily, 11/2).

Ad Campaign

In related news, organizations that support the passage of the SCHIPlegislation on Thursday announced that they will run a televisionadvertising campaign targeting Republicans who voted against the bill,the New York Times reports (New York Times, 11/2). The groups -- Americans United for Change, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union -- will run both individual ads in lawmakers' districts and a generic version that will run nationally (CongressDaily, 11/2).

Thead asks, "What if your daughter didn't have health coverage ...? Whatif you had to work two jobs to make ends meet, but still couldn'tafford insurance? Would you still back George Bush's vetoes?" (New York Times,11/2). The ad buy brings the groups' total spending on SCHIP to about$2.5 million, according to Americans United for Change President BradWoodhouse. The ads will target Kuhl and Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio),Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Ric Keller(R-Fla.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and MicheleBachmann (R-Minn.) (CongressDaily, 11/2).

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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