'A Lot of Outrage' Over Children's Health Bill, Boehner Says

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

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) Tuesday criticized Democratic handling of a bill that would reauthorize and expand funding for children's health insurance and pledged that Republicans would "express their outrage" when the measure comes to the House floor this week.

"I think our members are outraged by the process that's been employed by the majority over the consideration of this bill," Boehner said in a conference call with reporters.

He predicted that "as the week goes on trust me, you're going to see ... a lot of outrage, and frankly well-deserved outrage aimed at the Democrats over how they've handled this and what they're doing."

He was referring to the Children's Health and Medicare Protection (CHAMP) Act, a measure that would double the size of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The House will bring the bill to the floor Wednesday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Republicans are frustrated because Democrats did not introduce the 465-page bill until late in the evening of July 24, leaving only 10 days before the scheduled start of the August recess.

Democratic committee leaders have tried to push the measure through without legislative hearings on the bill, arguing they must act quickly because the current program will expire on Sept. 30, 2007.

Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee used procedural maneuvers to block a markup on the measure last week. The Ways and Means Committee, however, approved the bill.

Republican aides said they expect the bill to be brought to the floor under a limited or closed rule, meaning that few or no amendments would be allowed to the bill. "They seem intent on ramming through legislation with no real vetting process," an aide told Cybercast News Service.

Boehner declined to elaborate on how Republicans would continue to stall SCHIP reauthorization but said, "if you watch it, you'll see it." He added that "a lot of our members want to have a lot of conversation about this."

Democratic leaders shot back in a news conference of their own Tuesday, accusing Republicans of opposing the policy of federally funded health insurance for children, rather than the process of fast-tracking its renewal and expansion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted that 23 committee hearings had been held on the subject before the bill was drafted, a fact Republicans have acknowledged while demanding hearings on the bill itself after its introduction.

"They know full well that SCHIP ... will expire by the end of September," the California Democrat said. "This isn't about process. They oppose the policy of insuring these children and they're using process as an excuse to mask their disagreement with something that is overwhelmingly supported by the American people."

Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Republicans had "been ... in all the hearings that we've had and they got a chance in the subcommittee and the full committee - Ways and Means - to offer all their amendments."

"What Republicans are concerned about is not the amount of time they have to improve it - it's the amount of time that's left to try to stop it," he stated.

Republicans have said they want to reauthorize SCHIP but have expressed disagreement with several aspects of the Democratic proposal.

Boehner said in the conference call that Republican opposition is "not only about the process but about the bill itself. This is Hillary Care II. This is nothing more than higher taxes, bigger government and moving people out of private health insurance into a government-run health care plan."

As Cybercast News Service has reported, Republicans have criticized the proposal for its scope of expansion, which they argue would include middle-income children who are already covered under their parents' employer-based insurance. They also oppose several provisions of the bill which could open up the coverage to illegal immigrants.

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