George W. Bush loves poor, sick children. As the joke goes, he loves them so much that he’s forever trying to make more of them – both here at home, and, as the world well knows, abroad.
But it was no joke that during his televised press conference this past Thursday, our Child Advocate-in-chief issued a challenge to Democrats to quickly renew (read: pass the legislation the president wants) the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, set to expire on September 30th. "If they fail to do so," he said, "more than a million children could lose health coverage."
Democrats in the House and in the Senate have already passed different proposals to renew and strengthen the program (for more on this, and on SCHIP, see an earlier post here), and are reportedly close to a deal that would expand the program by $35 billion over the next five years. The president, a veritable Marian Wright Edelman, has promised to veto such an expansion.
The same president who, on Thursday, accused Democrats of "putting poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington" is putting poor children at risk so that he can score political points with his conservative base.
In order to just to maintain coverage for the six million children annually who currently receive health coverage thanks to the program, SCHIP would need to be funded at $39 billion over the next five years, an increase of $14 billion over baseline. This amount would neither strengthen the program, nor allow for the provision of health coverage for any of the nine million U.S. children currently without health care. It would simply maintain the status quo.
The president, that passionate defender of poor and sick children, has proposed increasing federal funding of SCHIP over the next five years by only $5 billion, to $30 billion, in essence a funding cut of $9 billion. Such a cut would endanger and likely end the health coverage of hundreds of thousands of currently covered children.
Perhaps that is what he meant at his news conference, that if he failed to renew and fund the program to take into account the rapid rise in health care costs since the program was launched a decade ago, perhaps as many as a million children could lose health coverage.
No, probably not. But then, who knows? The president has seemed more confused than ever in recent days. Mandela’s dead, you know.
The emerging House and Senate compromise could bring total enrollment in SCHIP to ten million children, an increase of four million, and a cut nearly by half in the rolls of uninsured children. The proposed compromise package would look much like the Senate version that was passed with bipartisan support by a veto-proof 68 to 31 vote in August.
Damn these 50 Democrats and 18 Republicans for putting poor children at risk!
The compromise bill would increase funding to the program by $35 billion over the next five years by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes, bringing total funding for SCHIP to $60 billion. It reduces by $15 billion funding authorized in the House version, which passed largely along party lines by a 225 to 204 vote, 65 votes shy of a veto-proof margin in a full House vote.
Democratic negotiators are hopeful that the compromise package will increase the chance that a veto-proof majority will be won upon a re-vote in the House. And while they nail down a final compromise, the president, a veritable Mr. Rogers, warns that "health coverage for these children should not be held hostage."
No, of course not. Only Iraqi children are allowed held hostage.
Renewing and strengthening SCHIP by expanding the program to cover millions more uninsured children has broad bipartisan support nationwide. Forty-three governors have called for Congress to expand the program. A majority of Americans polled support increasing the federal excise tax to direct funds to the health care of uninsured children.
So great, in fact, is the "surge" of support for SCHIP that it seems the only remaining insurgents are the president – a man out-sainted only by Mother Theresa in his love for poor and sick children – and those few dead-enders in their last throes who make up his base. It is time for about 65 House Republicans to decide whether they are for uninsured children, or against them.
List of Nay Voters For H.R. 3162 on August 1st, 2007:
Aderholt, Akin, Alexander, Bachmann, Bachus, Baker, Barrett (SC), Bartlett (MD), Barton (TX), Biggert, Bilbray, Bilirakis, Bishop (UT), Blackburn, Blunt, Boehner, Bonner, Bono, Boozman, Boren, Boustany, Brady (TX), Broun (GA), Brown (SC), Brown-Waite, Buchanan, Burgess, Burton (IN), Buyer, Calvert, Camp (MI), Campbell(CA), Cannon, Cantor, Carter, Castle, Chabot, Coble, Cole (OK), Conaway, Cooper, Cubin, Culberson, Davis (KY), Davis, David, Davis, Tom, Deal (GA), Dent, Diaz-Balart, L., Diaz-Balart, M., Donnelly, Doolittle, Drake, Dreier, Duncan, Ehlers, Ellsworth, Emerson, English (PA), Etheridge, Everett, Fallin, Feeney, Flake, Forbes, Fortenberry, Fossella, Foxx, Franks (AZ), Frelinghuysen, Gallegly, Garrett (NJ), Gerlach, Gilchrest, Gillmor, Gingrey, Gohmert, Goode, Goodlatte, Granger, Graves, Hall (TX), Hastert, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Heller, Hensarling, Herger, Hill, Hobson, Hoekstra, Hulshof, Hunter, Inglis (SC), Issa, Jindal, Johnson (IL), Jones (NC), Jordan, Keller, King(IA), King (NY), Kingston, Kirk, Kline (MN), Knollenberg, Kuhl (NY), Lamborn, Latham, LaTourette, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, Lucas, Lungren, Daniel E., Mack, Manzullo, Marchant, Marshall, McCarthy (CA), McCaul (TX), McCotter, McCrery, McHenry, McHugh, McIntyre, McKeon, McMorris Rodgers, Mica, Miller (FL), Miller (MI), Miller, Gary, Moran (KS), Murphy, Tim, Musgrave, Myrick, Neugebauer, Nunes, Paul, Pearce, Pence, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Poe, Porter, Price (GA), Pryce (OH), Putnam, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Reichert, Renzi, Reynolds, Rogers (AL), Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Roskam, Royce, Ryan (WI), Sali, Saxton, Schmidt, Sensenbrenner, Sessions, Shadegg, Shimkus, Shuler, Shuster, Simpson, Smith (NE), Smith (NJ), Smith, (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Tancredo, Taylor, Terry, Thornberry, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Turner, Upton, Walberg, Walden (OR), Walsh (NY), Wamp, Weldon (FL), Weller, Westmoreland, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wilson (SC), Wolf, Young (AK), Young (FL)
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