Today, President Bush vetoed a compromise bill that would have increased funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance program by $35 billion over five years. In his veto message to the House of Representatives the president said, “This bill would shift SCHIP away from its original purpose and turn it into a program that would cover children from some families of four earning almost $83,000 a year. In addition, under this bill, government coverage would displace private health insurance for many children. If this bill were enacted, one out of every three children moving onto government coverage would be moving from private coverage. The bill also does not fully fund all its new spending, obscuring the true cost of the bill’s expansion of SCHIP, and it raises taxes on working Americans.”

The president said that the bill passed by Congress takes healthcare in the wrong direction. “Because the Congress has chosen to send me a bill that moves our health care system in the wrong direction, I must veto it. I hope we can now work together to produce a good bill that puts poorer children first, that moves adults out of a program meant for children, and that does not abandon the bipartisan tradition that marked the enactment of SCHIP.”

During a budget speech in Lancaster, PA, Bush signaled that he would be willing to compromise on the bill. He said that he is, “more than willing to negotiate with lawmakers if they need a little more money in the bill to help us meet the objective of getting help for poor children.”

The Democrats need to get 15 House Republicans to change their votes in order to override Bush’s veto, but so far they have had no success. Democrats had some harsh words for Bush’s veto. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Today the President had an opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill that will bring health care to 10 million children in families struggling to make ends meet.  Instead, President Bush used his cruel veto pen to say ‘I forbid 10 million children from getting the health benefits they deserve.”

Pelosi also vowed to expand the program with or without Bush’s help. “The President chose to block a bill with strong bipartisan consensus—which has so much potential for good—to force Congress to mount a veto override effort.  We remain committed to making SCHIP into law—with or without the President’s support.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “Never has it been clearer how detached President Bush is from the priorities of the American people.  By vetoing a bipartisan bill to renew the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), President Bush is denying health care to millions of low-income kids in America…Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress and the governors of nearly every state, healthcare providers and patient advocates, rural and urban Americans, and citizens of all ages are united in strong support of our nation’s children.  With today’s veto, President Bush has turned his back on America’s children and he stands alone.”

It would be political suicide for the Republicans to stand with the president on this veto, without their being some sort of compromise in the pipeline. My best guess is that the Democrats won’t get their $35 billion. That will probably have to wait until after the 2008 election, but neither President Bush nor Congressional Republicans want to be painted as depriving poor kids of healthcare. There will be a compromise, probably right around $15-$20 billion, which would represent a victory for Democrats and the president and Republicans can look fiscally conservative.

Pelosi statement

Harry Reid statement

President Bush’s veto message 

Jason Easley is the politics editor at His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jason is also the host of TPU Radio, which can be heard at every Sunday morning at 11 AM ET.

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