Senate Finance Committee Republicans have called on President Bush to stop an administration practice of granting and extending waivers that allow states to enroll adults into their State Childrens Health Insurance Program just one day after he criticized efforts on Capitol Hill to broaden the program to a wider variety of individuals.
In letters sent to both Bush and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said they were committed to returning the federal-state SCHIP program to its focus on low-income children but that HHS-administered waivers have allowed states to enroll more and more adults into the program.
The mess created by the waivers makes it even more difficult to reauthorize SCHIP, Grassley, the top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.
The unusual exchange between lawmakers and the White House comes as Bush has angered many lawmakers with veto threats and publicly attacking their legislative plans to reauthorize the program, which officially would end Sept. 30 unless Congress renews it.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee drafted a roadmap to fund the program at $35 billion over five years, using a 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax to largely offset the costs. But a blueprint in the House goes much further, giving the program an additional $50 billion over five years and includes a host of other healthcare proposals. The Finance Committee is expected to draft a bill by weeks end, with final work expected to be completed by July 17. -- by Matthew DoBias