Saturday, September 22, 2007

A President Willing to Sacrifice Children's Health to Ideology

The House is scheduled to vote on the expanded SCHIP legislation on Tuesday, with the Senate vote coming up two days later. Last Thursday, Pres. Bush reiterated his determination to veto the bill if it includes (as it does) additional funding to cover a larger pool of uninsured children:

President Bush again called Democrats "irresponsible" on Saturday for pushing an expansion he opposes to a children's health insurance program.

"Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed," Bush said of the measure that draws significant bipartisan support, repeating in his weekly radio address an accusation he made earlier in the week. "Members of Congress are risking health coverage for poor children purely to make a political point."

In the Democrat's response, also broadcast Saturday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell turned the tables on the president, saying that if Bush doesn't sign the bill, 15 states will have no funding left for the program by the end of the month.

At issue is the Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. It expires Sept. 30.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a proposal Friday that would add $35 billion over five years to the program, adding 4 million people to the 6.6 million already participating. It would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

The idea is overwhelmingly supported by Congress' majority Democrats, who scheduled it for a vote Tuesday in the House. It has substantial Republican support as well.

But Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and smacks of a move toward completely federalized health care. He has asked Congress to pass a simple extension of the current program while debate continues, saying it's children who will suffer if they do not.

"Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage — not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage," Bush said.

The bill's backers have vigorously rejected Bush's claim it would steer public money to families that can readily afford health insurance, saying their goal is to cover more of the millions of uninsured children. The bill would provide financial incentives for states to cover their lowest-income children first, they said.

The legislation in its current form is a compromise between the House and the Senate versions [note the last sentence in this quote, which I have emphasized]:
The compromise resembles a Senate version that passed in August with 68 votes, enough to override a veto. But getting the needed 290 votes in the House will be difficult, lawmakers said.

The measure would boost the program's total funding to $60 billion over the next five years, with the expansion to be paid for by a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, to $1 a pack. The added funding would increase total enrollment to 10 million children, from 6.6 million.

The bill would also block the implementation of new rules that the Bush administration imposed last month to restrict states' ability to enroll middle-class children. The measure would prevent states from enrolling adults except for pregnant women, and it would require states that already have adults on the rolls to remove them.

The original House version, which passed 225 to 204, largely along party lines, called for total funding of $75 billion over five years. Bush has proposed a funding increase of $5 billion over five years, which would bring the total to $30 billion over that period. Supporters of the compromise noted that the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Bush amount is not enough to continue covering the number of children who are already in the program.

Down With Tyranny! doesn't mince words:
... today the most hated man in the world and the most hated man to have ever occupied the White House has reiterated that he doesn't give a rat's ass what Congress thinks or what the American people think; he's vetoing the bill. It's not likely that the disruption of the vaccination process in the U.S. will bring an epidemic of disease to our country like Bush's agenda of greed, selfishness and arrogance has brought epidemics of war and anguish to every part of the globe he has meddled in. But it could happen. The man should be removed from office. No matter what Nancy Pelosi ever accomplishes she will always be shamed as the person who took impeachment-- of the most execrable character to ever disgrace our nation--off the table.

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