Sunday, July 22, 2007

The First Veto Override?

The president has signalled that he intends to veto the Children's Health Insurance Program bill proposed by the Senate. The bill, which budgets $35 billion over five years, is to be funded by an increase in federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. The president's proposal would only have budgeted $5 billion over that five years and would, contrary to White House assertions, result in the dropping of hundreds of thousands of children covered by the program.

A lot of Republicans have signed on to the Senate version: it passed out of committee with a majority of Republicans voting for the measure. The House, which is still working out its version, is said to be even more generous, but House leaders will no doubt concede to the Senate version, if only in conference, because the bill is so desired at this point.

Will enough Republicans vote to override the promised veto? According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, the votes just might be there. November, 2008 is drawing closer, and none of them want to be tarred with the brush of voting to hurt kids with health problems. The president's version will certainly do that, according to some state officials:

Some state officials say the administration is not offering nearly enough money to meet current commitments, much less help more children.

"The funding that was provided in the first decade when most of us were building our programs is simply not sufficient to continue," said Lesley Cummings, an administrator of California's program.

A recent study estimated about 200,000 children could be dropped from coverage in California under the president's plan, she said.

The irony of the president's harsh stance is that this man campaigned on a theme of "Compassionate Conservatism," citing the Texas CHIP plan which he signed as evidence of his committment to that theme. The Times article gives a different version of that history:

Back in Texas, where Bush was governor in the early days of the program, former state Rep. Glen Maxey, a Democrat, said the president was "no friend of this program."

The initial allocation of federal funds for Texas would have supported coverage for 500,000 children, Maxey said. But Gov. Bush's first proposal called for covering only about 150,000, according to Maxey, who formed a legislative caucus to build support for covering the larger number.

The turning point was a 1999 committee vote in the Texas House, which signaled broad support for the more generous plan. Maxey said Bush later came up to him on the House floor, put his hands on his shoulders and conceded he had been outflanked.

Bush signed the bill and when he ran for president in 2000, cited it as an example of "compassionate conservatism."
[Emphasis added]

In keeping with his original feelings on the issue, Mr. Bush now claims that the bill proposed by the Senate is merely the first step towards a national takeover of health care, and he won't allow it.

Some compassion, eh?

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