SCHIP Bill Up for A Final (Veto-proof?) Vote

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - The House of Representatives on Tuesday is expected to pass a bill renewing -- and expanding -- a government health insurance program for millions of American children.

According to the Washington Post, the final version of the legislation still wasn't available to the public late Monday evening.

Republicans support a renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for millions of low-income children who otherwise might not have health insurance.

But Republicans strongly object to expanding the program to families earning more money, viewing it as government encroachment on private health care.

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill. He says it is too expensive and would encourage middle-income families to ditch their private insurance in favor of government coverage.

"Instead of expanding SCHIP beyond its original scope, we should return it to its original focus, and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need," President Bush said last week.

House Republican Leader John Boehner said on Monday that House Republicans "strongly support" renewing SCHIP for low-income children -- but they don't want any part of a "huge expansion of massive government-run health care," or "Hillary-care," as Boehner called it.

Boehner and House Republicans are urging Congress to "work toward a commonsense solution" so that 6.6 million low-income children who are currently enrolled in SCHIP "won't be the victims of Washington's political games." The SCHIP program will expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress reauthorizes it.

Democrats want to boost SCHIP enrollment to 10 million people, most of them children, an expansion that would cost taxpayers an extra $35 billion over five years, compared with the $5 billion increase President Bush is recommending. Democrats plan to fund the SCHIP expansion through higher tobacco taxes., framing the argument in politically advantageous terms for Democrats, is urging Americans to "stop the Republicans from blocking health care for kids."

"[I]f enough Republicans vote for the bill, President Bush may be forced to back down. Or Congress could override his veto in a first-ever slap to Bush," the liberal advocacy group said in a message to supporters.

Although the House is expected to pass the SCHIP bill on Tuesday (and the Senate is expected to follow suit), it's not clear if the legislation will pass by a veto-proof margin.

See Earlier Stories:
House Passes Expansion of Children's Health Insurance (Aug. 2, 2007)
'A Lot of Outrage' Over Children's Health Bill, Boehner Says (Aug. 1, 2007)
Beware of Higher Cigarette Taxes, Tobacco Company Warns (July 25, 2007)
Politicians Debate Government's Role in Health Care (July 24, 2007)
Lawmakers Seek Options As Children's Health Insurance Plan Set to Expire (March 30, 2007)

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