October 3, 2007

Vetoland, Population: 4

President Bush increased the number of vetoes issued during his administration by 33% today, torpedoing the S-CHIP expansion and setting up a major policy battle with Congress. With the Senate passing the bill with enough votes to overturn the veto, all eyes turn to the House, where both sides have scrambled to whip their caucuses:

President Bush, in a confrontation with Congress, on Wednesday vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have dramatically expanded children's health insurance.

It was only the fourth veto of Bush's presidency, and one that some Republicans feared could carry steep risks for their party in next year's elections. The Senate approved the bill with enough votes to override the veto, but the margin in the House fell short of the required number.

The White House sought as little attention as possible, with the president wielding his veto behind closed doors without any fanfare or news coverage. ...

The Democrats who control Congress, with significant support from Republicans, passed the legislation to add $35 billion over five years to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

The president had promised to veto it, saying the Democratic bill was too costly, took the program too far from its original intent of helping the poor, and would entice people now covered in the private sector to switch to government coverage. He wants only a $5 billion increase in funding.

Let's underscore that last sentence. Bush doesn't want to end S-CHIP, nor does he want to freeze its funding level. He wanted to increase funding to the program, but Democrats wanted to increase it seven times more than Bush's proposal -- and they wanted to slap a highly regressive tax onto the public to fund it. In effect, the Democrats wanted to take money from the poor to subsidize health insurance for middle-class children.

The Senate barely mustered a veto-proof this legislation, 67-29. Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott will start talking with the Republicans who went in favor of the expansion in the last round. The HillaryCare memo that strategized the targeting of children as a Trojan horse for nationalized health care will undoubtedly play a large role in the argument. The GOP has an alternative of tax incentives and breaks for middle-class families without health insurance to level the playing field against those who get tax-protected health plans from their employees, a proposal that came too late in the game to affect the voting last time. All they need to do is switch two votes away from the expansion.

The House, however, will be the center of attention. The original vote came up short of a veto-proof majority, and they will be the first chamber to vote on the veto. Marsha Blackburn just told a blogger conference call that she believes the GOP can "comfortably" sustain the veto. If the House fails to sustain the veto, McConnell and Lott can almost assuredly expect to fail in the Senate as well. The House will be the battleground, and members can expect arm-twisting all day today.


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» When Will Dems Fight Bush On SCHIP Veto? “Maybe next week. Maybe the week after. There’s no time limit,” Hoyer said. from Right Voices
Yes, he vetoed the SCHIP bill as promised. This isn’t because he wants to end SCHIP, but he will not expand it beyond what the program was set up to do. It appears Congress lacks the votes to overturn Bush’s veto. Though 67 votes in the ... [Read More]

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