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House Postpones Consideration Of SCHIP Veto Message

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Members of the U.S. House voted 222-197 Wednesday to wait until Oct. 18 to consider the veto of the state Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.

President Bush delivered a veto message to the House earlier Wednesday.

All House Republicans who voted were against postponing consideration of the veto until later this month, and only 1 Democrat voted with the Republicans.

Authorization for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program expired Sept. 30. Members of Congress have passed a “continuing resolution” that will keep the program going until Nov. 16.

Bush has proposed increasing funding of SCHIP to $30 billion over 5 years, from $25 billion under current rules.

The bill that Bush vetoed, H.R. 976, would have increased funding to $60 billion over 5 years, in part by increasing tobacco taxes.

States say they need the funding and flexibility to use SCHIP money to provide health coverage for moderate-income children and some very low income adults.

Bush says the changes would make the program too expensive and move it too far away from the original goal of providing health coverage for children of low-income working parents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, accused Democrats of postponing the vote on the veto message to get a 2-week period in which to “try to play politics.”

Earlier, Democrats said Congress had to reauthorize SCHIP quickly to keep children from losing their health coverage, Barton said on the House floor, according to a version of his remarks printed in the Congressional Record.

If approving SCHIP “was such a rush last month, you would think that it would still be a rush now and they would want to get the veto out of the way and then work together to come up with a bill that the President would sign,” Barton said.

The House parliamentarian said the last time the House agreed to postpone consideration of a veto was in 1996, Barton said.

Barton said the House ought to work on developing a bipartisan compromise bill that Bush will sign.

During discussion of the veto on the House floor, Democrats complained that Bush vetoed H.R. 976 due to expense while was he asking Congress to approve spending $190 billion more to protect Iraq.

“Mr. President, we need to protect the children of Bowie, of New York, of Peoria, of Miami, of California,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., blasted Bush for a recent proposal to keep SCHIP from crowding out private health coverage by requiring that children go for a year without insurance coverage before they could qualify for SCHIP coverage.

“That is 1 year of earaches, strep throat, asthma, diabetes and toothaches that would be treated in emergency rooms rather than the doctor’s office,” Pallone said. “The president talked about how kids can go to the emergency room. Well, has he been to an emergency room lately? I was at one in my district last weekend. It is not a great place for a kid to visit. It is a scene of trauma. People who have overdosed on alcohol and drugs. Most emergency rooms are overwhelmed with real emergencies and have few resources to treat people who need regular family care.”

Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., said the Democrats triggered the veto of H.R. 976 by relying on gimmicky financing provisions and provisions that would let states use SCHIP money to cover relatively high-income children and some low-income adults.

“How does stalling a renewal of SCHIP for partisan gain meet the needs of low-income kids?” Camp asked. “SCHIP can be renewed without extending benefits to people making $82,000, without extending benefits to adults, without going down the path of government-controlled health care. We can renew SCHIP without raising taxes, without cutting Medicare, without assuming there will be 22 million new smokers, and without cutting funds in year 6 by 80% and pushing the program off a budgetary cliff.”

The Web version of the Congressional Record version of the H.R. 976 veto discussion starts (To see subsequent pages, click on the “Next Page” link in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser window.)