House and Senate Republicans are divided over the measure. Polls show the public favors expanding the program to help kids from low-income families who are not poor enough to qualify for government health care, but still lack health insurance. The legislation is backed by 43 governors - including California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - who say the program isn't keeping pace with the swelling ranks of uninsured children.
In California, the legislation would provide 607,000 more children with insurance in addition to the 1.1 million who already benefit from the program.
The timing of the veto sets up an unenviable comparison for the White House. The president just sent a request to Congress for $189 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. By contrast, the expanded children's health program would cost $60 billion over five years.
"While he continues to demand billions to fund his flawed war policies, he is telling the most vulnerable segment of our society that there just isn't enough money for them to have adequate health care," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek...
Republicans complained that Democrats are delaying the vote simply to get as much political mileage as they can out of the issue.
When one side complains to the media about how mean the other side is, you know they are losing the argument regardless of the veto override outcome. How bad is this for Republicans? According to this Democracy Corps poll:
The President badly loses the debate over S-CHIP, putting at risk Republicans who block the expansion of health insurance for children. Since the Democratic Congress has taken office in January, support for an expansion of S-CHIP has been among the highest testing proposals voters would like to see Congress take action on. Indeed, more than a third of voters mentioned it as a one of their top two reasons to support a Democratic Congress in the future.
While the President vetoed the expansion of children's health insurance because it exceeded the $5 billion increase in funding he has suggested, voters want more. By 60 to 35 percent, voters side with the Democrats on this issue; indeed almost 40 percent strongly agree with a Democratic statement calling for an expansion of the S-CHIP program to insure more than 3 million children and paying for it by increasing the tax on a pack of cigarettes.
As with health care overall, the S-CHIP battle gives Democrats a large advantage with independents, as well as mobilizing Democratic supporters. Indeed, the President has not won over Republican voters on this issue.
- Among Democrats nearly nine-in-ten favor an expansion of the S-CHIP program and among liberals 86 percent voice their favor. Voters in Democratic held districts favor the expansion by a 33-point margin and even in Democrats’ most vulnerable districts, those which switched in 2006, voters favor the expansion by a 32-point margin.
- Independents align with Democrats in calling for an expansion of the program by a 34-point margin (62 to 28 percent).
- Voters in Republican-held districts favor a Democratic statement calling for an expansion of the S-CHIP program by a 16-point margin (55 to 39 percent). Those identifying as Republicans favor the Presidents’ position by a 42-point margin (27 to 69 percent).
When's the vote?
Democratic leaders scheduled the showdown for Oct. 18 to allow two weeks for pressure to build on Republicans. A union-led organization said it would spend more than $3 million trying to influence the outcome. "It's going to be a hard vote for Republicans," promised Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Criticism of the veto was instantaneous, from every quarter of the Democratic political firmament.
Here's Chris Murphy, CT-05 Democrat speaking from the house floor yesterday (press release):
"Let me ask you this. If you were walking down the street, and you saw a child injured, would you stop and do everything you could to help that child? I think everyone in this chamber would unequivocally answer yes. So why can’t we also agree that for the millions of sick children in this country, who have no access to health insurance or preventative health care, that we don’t have a similar duty to everything within our power to help them get healed?"
Joe Courtney, another freshman from CT-02 (press release):
"President Bush’s veto of this critical reauthorization shows just how disconnected the White House is from the reality of our nations’ health care crisis, specifically for our most vulnerable citizens."
So let's see:
- Divided Republicans and united Democrats? Check
- Public siding with Democrats? Check
- Independents rejecting GOP on health care? Check
- SCHIP supported by insurance lobby, big business, small business and labor? Check
- Guns, not butter? Check
- Republicans can't be trusted on health care, the most important domestic issue in 2008? Put that in bold