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SCHIP Due For Another House Vote

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The House was scheduled to vote late Oct. 25 on legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan that was revised to meet the objections of Republicans. But whether the changes would generate a veto-proof majority was unclear at press time.

The substance of the legislation remains the same as one that narrowly failed to surmount a presidential veto.

Ten days ago, the House failed to override President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP bill, missing the two-thirds majority needed with 273 voting to override and 156 against.

For example, the bill still calls for an increase on tobacco product taxes to fund a $35 billion expansion over SCHIP’s current $25 billion 5-year funding baseline.

But to win over recalcitrant Republicans, the new bill tightens income eligibility levels, speeds the elimination of coverage for childless adults, and strengthens citizenship verification requirements.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said before the vote that the revised bill addresses all of the concerns expressed by Republicans and the president.

“It clarifies the language on the claim that was made that people making $83,000 a year could receive SCHIP; that was patently not true, and it is clarified in the legislation that it is not so,” she said.

Pelosi said the bill cuts off eligibility for kids in families above 300% of the federal poverty level–about $62,000 for a family of four this year–with the exception of any grandfathered state plan. President Bush has said SCHIP should focus on families under 200% of the federal poverty line.

The bill is also explicit in stating that illegal aliens are not eligible for federal funding, Pelosi said. Further, adults without children will be phased out of the program over one year, rather than over two years, which was previously proposed.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., supports the revision. “We’ve addressed the concerns raised by many who voted against the original CHIP reauthorization bill, and the result is strong legislation that ought to garner even broader, more bipartisan support,” he said.

In his statement, Baucus added, “SCHIP is meant to get low-income, uninsured American kids the doctor’s visits and medicines they need to stay healthy, and this updated legislation will make sure that happens.”

Baucus said, “I’m very hopeful now. We’re within a hair’s breadth of preserving health care coverage for the 6.6 million kids in CHIP today, and reaching millions more kids who need this vital program.”

But a House Republican leader, minority whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Pelosi should delay the vote on SCHIP due to the fires in California. “Unfortunately, the speaker announced plans to hold an important, and contentious, vote on SCHIP while these members are confronting serious issues at home–disenfranchising, in effect, a large segment of the most populous state in the union, and throwing into doubt the integrity of the vote,” he said.