President Bush vetoed a bill that would have reauthorized the State Childrens Health Insurance Program at $35 billion above the programs baseline of $25 billion over five years.
In a statement to Congress, Bush said that the bill does not put poor children first and it moves our countrys healthcare system in the wrong direction.
The bill would have funded the increase using a tobacco tax, and would cover 10 million children in total. The bill, the second attempt by Congress to get a bill past the White House, was approved by both the House and Senate nearly a month ago.
Congress in this latest attempt tried to amend certain provisions to make it more veto-proof, such as phasing childless adults out of the program within one year instead of two and taking more steps to prevent substitution of SCHIP coverage for private coverage, as well as ensuring that illegal immigrants would not obtain coverage. Yet, the White House continues to oppose the funding levels and eligibility requirements that Congress has proposed, in addition to the tax hike.
The veto caused a wave of protests among congressional Democrats. Bush is the Grinch who stole Christmas, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee, said in a statement. He refuses to spend $35 billion to provide healthcare to 10 million children even as he asks for nearly $200 billion more for his failed war in Iraq, Stark said.
A continuing resolution thats keeping the program afloat expires on Dec. 14. In the meantime, its possible that language to keep the program afloat may appear in a House bill to enact major Medicare reforms, but the status of that legislation at deadline was unclear. A draft from congressional Democrats proposes extending the program until Sept. 30, 2008, whereas alternative language offered by the Republicans calls for a longer extension, until March 2009. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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