The Democrats have introduced a new version of S-CHIP that they hope can garner enough Republican support to override a presidential veto. The changes in the details limits childless adults from accessing S-CHIP and it sets a lower ceiling of 300% of the poverty line for eligibility. However, it still contains the regressive smoking tax and still does not account for full funding of the program:
Just one week after failing to override President Bush’s veto, House Democrats will put a new version of their $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to a vote today, hoping that minor changes will win enough Republicans to beat Bush this round.
The new version will underscore that illegal immigrants will not have access to the expanded program. It will ease adults off the program in one year, rather than the two in the vetoed version. And it establishes a firmer eligibility cap at 300 percent of the federal poverty line, just more than $60,000 for a family of four.
The move took Republican leaders by surprise. Bush administration officials yesterday voiced conciliation, suggesting the president could accept legislation that would expand the program by about $20 billion over five years, far bigger than the $5 billion expansion that Bush initially proposed. At the same time, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has been meeting with House and Senate Republicans, urging them to hold the line against an even larger bill. And Bush continues to oppose the tobacco tax increase that Democrats want to fund the measure.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has been meeting all week with some of the 45 House Republicans who voted for the first bill, looking for ways to win the dozen or so votes that supporters needed to override another veto. But Democratic leaders have yet to reach out to the Republicans who voted against the measure.
“When they need my vote, they don’t even have the courage to ask me for it,” complained Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), who has suffered through a barrage of advertisements from Democratic allies accusing him of forsaking children.
That’s not the only place in which they lack the courage of their rhetoric. After years of complaining about Republican majority practices (which followed Republican complaints of Democratic majority practices before 1994), Nancy Pelosi promised open debate and reasonable access for the minority. In a well-documented initiative that’s on her Speaker web site, Pelosi promised that “Bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the Minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute.” She also promised that “Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bill and conference report text prior to floor consideration. Rules governing floor debate must be reported before 10 p.m. for a bill to be considered the following day.”
So what happened today? The debate on HR 3963 will occur under a “closed rule” — which means Republicans can’t offer amendments. The GOP Whip claims that this is the 40th time that rule has been invoked by the majority. Also, the bill got filed last night at 11:25 pm, almost a midnight run, and the House started debating it at 11:20 this morning, just shy of 12 hours after publicizing the text. Most of the people debating this bill havenh’t even read it yet.
This is the New Direction for America promised by the Democrats. They issue bills in the dark of night, refuse to allow real debate and compromise, and force votes on massive spending initiatives without allowing for reasonable review first. That direction leads to irresponsible legislation and hefty bills for taxpayers, regardless of the value of the initiative. If this new S-CHIP proposal has any merit, why are Democrats afraid of real debate and bipartisan effort?