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House Fails to Override Veto of Children’s Health Bill

On October 18, the House failed, 273-156, to override President Bush’s veto of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 976). The vote fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to override a veto. The House passed the bill on September 25; the Senate on September 27 (see The Source, 9/28/07).

The bill would have reauthorized the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through 2012. SCHIP was created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33) and provides health insurance to low-income children who are ineligible for Medicaid, but unable to obtain private health insurance coverage. SCHIP’s current authorization expires on November 16, 2007; it was extended via a continuing resolution (P.L. 110-92) signed into law on September 29 (see The Source, 9/28/07).

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) began by addressing the claim that children in families with incomes well above the poverty line are eligible for SCHIP: “There are currently no children enrolled in SCHIP with a family income of 400 percent of the federal poverty level, $83,000 for a family of four. In fact, 91.3 percent of the children enrolled in SCHIP are in families of four that make less than 200 percent of poverty. And 99.95 percent, just a hair under 100 percent of them, are in families under 300 percent of poverty.” She continued, “And let me also say that there are some myths about SCHIP…I mentioned one of them. Another one is about illegal aliens. Clearly, the bill states, ‘no federal funding for illegal aliens’…Illegal aliens do not get benefits, so don’t use that as an excuse to deprive 10 million children in our country who are eligible for enrollment in SCHIP that they shouldn’t get it.” In closing, Speaker Pelosi urged her colleagues to override the veto, saying, “The president is isolated in this. Don’t join him in his isolation. Come forward on behalf of the children and let’s truly send a signal that we are about the future. I tried to do that when I was sworn in by being surrounded by children. It was a spontaneous moment, but it was one that was clear in its message: We are gaveling this House to order on behalf of the children.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) disagreed with Speaker Pelosi’s assessment of the bill: “Madam Speaker, we do all know what this debate is about, but I think there is still confusion about the context of this bill and the content of this bill. We have heard our colleagues across the aisle saying that it has to do with supporting health care for disadvantaged children. But, unfortunately, that is not exactly what this bill does. We are all for health care for children of the working poor, but [here are] some of the things that this bill is about: It would move a very successful block grant program to an entitlement [program]. It would provide free, taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants. It would add more adults [from]…what our own IRS [Internal Revenue Service] calls high-income families to the government health care rolls. It would remove people from private insurance and put them over on the government rolls. It would, in many cases, replace the doctor-patient relationship with the bureaucrat making the decision. It doesn’t live up to its name. It doesn’t live up to what it is supposed to do. How do you pay for it? With budget gimmicks. Look at what happens in 2012. Let’s show respect for the issue. Take it back. Sustain the president’s veto.”

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