Friday, August 3, 2007
The Senate passed an expanded version of the SCHIP program yesterday. The LA Times reports,
Defying President Bush, the Senate on Thursday voted decisively to expand a popular health insurance program for children of the working poor and to more than double tobacco taxes to pay for it. Senators of both parties banded together in the 68-31 vote for the State Children's Health Insurance Program — 18 Republicans joined all 48 of the chamber's Democrats who voted and both of its independents. That's one vote more than the 67 needed to override Bush's threatened veto.
Under the Senate plan, smokers would foot the bill for covering 3 million children more than the 6 million already covered: The federal cigarette tax would jump from 39 cents a pack to $1, and the tax would reach $10 for luxury cigars with a wholesale price of $19 or more apiece.
The Senate action followed a House vote Wednesday approving an ambitious package that would cover about 5 million more children but would also make changes to Medicare that many Republicans say are unacceptable, such as cutting payments to managed-care plans. Lawmakers will face a challenge reconciling the bills. . . .
If congressional negotiators can strike a bipartisan deal, some senior Republicans suggest, the White House may have to back down on its veto threat. "I hope to be able to talk to the president and just show how common sense dictates not vetoing this," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who worked with Baucus to craft the bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who helped create the insurance program in 1997, said: "In the final analysis, I don't think this president will veto this bill." . . .
"This bill essentially extends a welfare benefit to middle-class households," said a White House statement on the legislation. Hatch took strong exception to the use of the word "welfare." "These aren't people on welfare," he said. "These are children of working-poor parents who are trying to work but don't have the money to get health insurance. It's hardly welfare."
For some other thoughts on the potential political fall-out to Bush's threatened veto, click here