Dems Accused of Playing Politics on SCHIP

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - The House of Representatives will wait two weeks before voting to overturn or uphold President Bush's veto of the proposed expansion of a children's health insurance program, even though they argued earlier that time was the critical issue in forcing the legislation through Congress.

Democrats pushed the reauthorization and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program through Congress last month without some normal procedures, such as full committee hearings on the legislation. They justified the fast-tracking of the bill because the program was set to expire Sept. 30.

The program was reauthorized through Nov. 16 under a continuing resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Bush before the end of the fiscal year, but a longer reauthorization and the Democrats' desired expansion will require a stand-alone bill.

Democrats sent the full bill to Bush, who vetoed it Wednesday morning, because he said it went too far in expanding the program - doubling it in size. Bush had threatened to veto the bill long before it passed the House, because he argued Democratic proposals were another step toward government-run health care.

The House voted mostly along party lines Wednesday to postpone an attempted veto override until Oct. 18, prompting Republicans to accuse Democrats of playing politics instead of working quickly to address a time-sensitive issue.

No Republicans voted in favor of postponing consideration of the veto. One Democrat, Health Shuler of North Carolina, voted with Republicans to oppose the postponement.

"If it was such a rush last month, you would think it would still be a rush now and we'd want to get the veto out of the way and work together to come up with a bill that the president would sign," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said on the House floor.

Democrats have already started running ads in some Republican districts criticizing the Republican member's vote on the SCHIP bill. Democrats can use the next two weeks to try to convince enough Republicans to switch their votes so they can override the veto.

The bill Bush vetoed passed the House Sept. 25 by a vote of 265-159, short of the 290 votes needed to overturn a veto.

"The fact that they are delaying this for two weeks reflects that they're more interested in running radio and TV ads for two weeks than they are in expanding children's health insurance coverage as quickly as possible," Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) told reporters in a briefing Wednesday.

"If they were interested in solving the problem instead of scoring political points, they would recognize that the bill as it is currently written will not become law and the next logical step would be to sit down with [Rep.] Jim McCrery and others and hammer out a solution that takes care of the kids first," he said.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) said after the postponement vote that he is confident Republicans will be able to uphold the veto in two weeks. "We'll be fine two weeks from now, just like we would have been fine today."

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