Sunday, October 7, 2007

SCHIP: Bush and GOP Play Poker with Sick Kids

For a guy that hadn't vetoed any legislation in his first 6-1/2 years in office, Bush is certainly making up for lost time. And true to form for this "compassionate conservative", the people at the business end of his latest veto are again poor, sick and needy.

Both the House (265-159) and the Senate (68-31) passed nearly identical legislation to increase funding of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over 5 years. SCHIP provides health insurance to children whose parents cannot afford health insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The legislation would have increased the number of children covered by this program from 6.6 million to over 10.5 million -- roughly a 60% increase. And how would this be paid for? A $1 tax increase on cigarettes.

So let's recap, more poor children who have no healthcare would receive coverage and the cost of the program would be borne by cigarette smokers. Sounds good, right?

If you agree, you clearly have fallen for the trap that Bush was too clever for (first time for everything?). Lost in the shuffle of these good deeds is the evil undercurrent of socialized medicine. For this program, surely begins the slippery slope towards having the government responsible for health care for everyone in the country. Aha! Bush has caught you devilish democrats.

It's a joke. Bush is calling for a smaller increase that according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will actually take 1 million children off the program over the next five years. The bickering over $6 billion a year is ludicrous given the $200 billion request that Bush has made for the war in Iraq for this year only. It's amazing that the President who has been a driving force for "No Child Left Behind" is against this. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) captured this sentiment best when he said "it's a bizarre thing that a president who believes in testing kids for math does not believe in testing kids for measles and mumps." But then again, this is the same president who recently stated that "Childrens do learn" in front of elementary schoold children while promoting "No Child Left Behind".

It's sad that the White House and the GOP have been able to gather enough support in the House to enable Bush's veto. Pelosi and the Dems have scheduled another vote this week to try to get the 15 more votes they need to make the legislation veto-proof (the Senate margin already is). Let's hope they are successful.

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