September 26, 2007
S-CHIP bill passes the House, but not by enough

Close, but no cigar.

The House voted Tuesday to expand health insurance for children, but the Democratic-led victory may prove short-lived because the margin was too small to override President Bush's promised veto.

Embarking on a health care debate likely to animate the 2008 elections, the House voted 265-159 to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, by $35 billion over five years. Bush says he will veto the bill because of its cost, its reliance on a tobacco tax increase and its potential for replacing private insurance with government grants.

SCHIP is a state-federal program that provides coverage for 6.6 million children from families that live above the poverty level but have trouble affording health insurance. The proposed expansion, backed by most governors and many health-advocacy groups, would add 4 million children to the rolls.

The bill drew support from 45 House Republicans, many of them moderates who do not want to be depicted as indifferent to low-income children's health needs when they seek re-election next year. But most Republicans, under pressure from the White House and party leaders, sided with Bush, a move that Democrats see as a political blunder.

And if Democrats are smart about this (sadly, not exactly a sure thing), they'll listen to the advice of Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley:

Grassley said if he were the Democrats, he would send the SCHIP expansion to a vote every three months, along with campaign advertisements accusing Republicans of abandoning children. That way, pressure would mount either on Bush to sign the bill or on House Republicans to override the veto.

From your lips to Reid and Pelosi's ears, dude. Of course, this is the approach they should have taken with getting the troops out of Iraq, and we know how that turned out. So let's just say I'm not holding my breath on this one. (Link via Steve Benen.)

Eight Democrats opposed the bill. Some, from tobacco-growing districts, object to raising the federal cigarette tax to $1 a pack, a 61-cent increase. Some Hispanic members complained that the bill would make legal immigrant children wait five years to qualify for SCHIP.

Here's the roll call, nicely broken down by party and state. The naysaying Dems:

Kathy Castor (FL)
Jim Marshall (GA)
Baron Hill (IN)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Bob Etheridge (NC)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Dan Boren (OK)

I see the tobacco state connection, but I don't see any Hispanics in there, so I think that paragraph could have used some better editing. Can anyone explain what Dennis Kucinich was doing? I can't explain that vote.

Next up is President Bush's inevitable veto, followed (one hopes) by the Democrats taking Chuck Grassley's advice. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The Observer reminds me that President Bush has a long-held antipathy to CHIP. Which if nothing else means that the Grassley Gambit can go on for as long as the Republicans want it to.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 26, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo

Democrats don't want to do anything about ending the war because they would rather have it as an issue in 08. They would also like to be free of any negative consequences for turning tail and running.

They might also be prefer to have this particular piece of legislation as an issue in 08.

Posted by: G-Man on September 26, 2007 7:22 PM

Can anyone explain what Dennis Kucinich was doing? I can't explain that vote.

I read somewhere (unfortunately, I don't have a link) that he was displeased about the immigrant issue.

Posted by: blank on September 26, 2007 8:27 PM

Kucinich had one of his Don Quixote moments where he wanted a more perfect bill.

"I cannot support legislation which extends health coverage to some children while openly denying it to other children," Kucinich said. "This legislation is woefully inadequate: and I will not support it.

"Legal immigrant children deserve the same quality health care as other children receive. It is Congress' responsibility to address the main difficulties that prevent legal immigrant children from gaining access to health care. Today, we did exactly the opposite."

He voted for an earlier version of the bill.

The GOP is blasting the bill with sound bites on high up the income scale it goes. The numbers they cite only apply to New York.

Posted by: Gary Denton on September 28, 2007 9:42 PM