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House Republicans To Present Final Proposal To Reauthorize SCHIP

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

House Republicans on Thursday will present Senate negotiators withtheir final proposal for legislation that would reauthorize and expandSCHIP as lawmakers continue last-minute negotiations, CongressDaily reports.

Senate Finance CommitteeChair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and other committee sponsors on Wednesdaygave House Republicans an "offer" for the bill, which they hope willgain enough Republican support to override a presidential veto. Baucussaid, "It covers all the issues. And we wrote it in a way that wethink, basically, is close to where we can reach an agreement. Itpositions us about as far as we can go." Baucus' bill "has the support"of congressional Democrats, but it is "unclear" if the Republicanresponse to the offer will be acceptable to Democrats or whether abroader group of Republicans will support the measure, according to CongressDaily.

AHouse Republican leadership aide said that party leaders' concerns --emphasizing coverage for low-income children, adult coverage andproof-of-citizenship requirements -- were not addressed in the proposedbill. Baucus said the burden is on the GOP to create a unified positionon the bill. "They have to get themselves together and present onedocument. They come back with one document, one position, not differentpositions, but one organized House Republican position," Baucus said.He added that if lawmakers do not reach an agreement, discussions "willcarry over until after recess."

Committee ranking member ChuckGrassley (R-Iowa) said, "There's a consensus that we get this done[Thursday] or we just kind of confide to each other that we can't,"adding, "We're getting finality, one way or another" (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/15). According to The Politico,if no compromise is reached, Democrats might send the current SCHIPbill to President Bush as early as Thursday for another veto. Iflawmakers fail to reach an agreement by mid-December, Democrats mightpropose a temporary extension of the program through Sept. 30, 2008, amove that "would force a vote on a critical issue just before theelection," according to Democratic aides, The Politico reports (Kady, The Politico, 11/15).

Eroding Support

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Forty-five House Republicans who have voted in favor of the SCHIP billon Wednesday sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) andMajority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asking them to ensure that any billthat emerges from the discussion will be thoroughly vetted by lawmakersbefore it moves to the floor for a vote. The letter states, "We hopethat members who have not been invited to participate in this informalprocess will be kept fully apprised of any substantive changes that maybe adopted."

Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) said the letter was areminder to Democratic leaders not to ignore Republicans who voted infavor of the expansion from the beginning (CongressDaily, 11/15).

Meanwhile,eight Democratic senators this week sent a letter to Pelosi and Hoyerwarning that they would not support any SCHIP bill that does not"protect state flexibility to cover parents." The letter states, "Ourstates have taken the lead to provide health care to this specificpopulation, and we do not want to inhibit their ability to continueproviding this important coverage."

The letter was signed bySens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Robert Menendez(N.J.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse(R.I.), Russ Feingold (Wis.) and Herb Kohl (Wis.). The senators in theletter warned congressional leaders against "further compromise,"saying it would erode their support of the legislation (Pear, New York Times, 11/15).

Tobacco Lobby

The tobacco industry "has spent millions on lobbyists and campaigncontributions in Washington while attempting to stoke grassrootsopposition to the tax increase" proposed in the SCHIP bill, CQ Todayreports. However, "only President Bush's stubborn opposition to aversion of the legislation that would cost more than his own proposalhas spared tobacco interests an ignominious defeat," according to CQ Today.

Philip Morris USAspokesperson Bill Phelps said that the company's opposition to the taxincrease was based on more than the bottom line. "We think it's unfairto adults who smoke and it's unfair to retailers who sell tobacco,"Phelps said, adding that it does not make sense to fund a growingexpense with a declining source of revenue.

Steve Weiss, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society,said, "Really, the choice here is about protecting the tobacco industryor saving 900,000 lives, while insuring four million additionalchildren" (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/14).

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