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.
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.
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.
Kathy Castor (FL)
Jim Marshall (GA)
Baron Hill (IN)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Bob Etheridge (NC)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Dan Boren (OK)
Next up is President Bush's inevitable veto, followed (one hopes) by the Democrats taking Chuck Grassley's advice. Stay tuned.Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 26, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo