Let’s be clear, President Bush’s planned veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is nothing less than immoral.
The current SCHIP reauthorization bill provides an additional $35 billion in funding over the next five years and brings total spending on the program to $60 billion. The additional funding would be paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax, as proposed in the Senate version. President Bush as usual has been disingenuous about how this additional funding will be raised- raising the specter of higher taxes, which makes it sound like every American will see an increase in their income tax.
I have no problem with paying for children’s health by taxing tobacco and quite frankly I think it makes total sense. I would posit that President Bush is compromising health care for the children of poor working families in order to protect the tobacco industry- an industry that has cost more money for health care than ANY other business in this country.
The original House version of the bill actually had some provisions to fix some of the inherent problems with the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 but these provision were removed in the compromise with the Senate. It is too bad that these fixes fell off the table during bicameral negotiations but I do understand that compromise is part of the legislative process and I am willing to see support the bill without the Medicare provisions if it means that it is passed with a broad bipartisan and veto proof majority. However I think that it will be nearly impossible to achieve the veto proof majority even with support from many Congressional Republicans.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Monday said, “I’m concentrating on getting this passed, and hopefully the president wakes up and realizes it does everything he said he wanted to do” (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 9/25). Grassley said that if he were a Democrat, he would send a reauthorization bill to the president every three months, along with campaign advertisements to Republicans that accuse them of abandoning children.
Pressure will grow for Bush to either sign the bill or for Republicans to override his veto (Washington Post, 9/25). Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) in a statement said, “For this president who helped rack up $3 trillion in new debt, it is not about the spending, it is about priorities, and the president has made his clear” (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 9/25).
“House Republicans created a ‘spectacle’ on Tuesday by aligning themselves with the White House against the SCHIP bill”, columnist David Broder writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding, “Rarely do you see so many politicians putting their careers in jeopardy.” He calls the program “one of the most successful health care measures created in the past decade” and adds, “Saying no to immigration reform and measures to shorten the war in Iraq may be politically defensible,” but the Bush administration’s “arguments against SCHIP … sound hollow at a time when billions more are being spent in Iraq with no end in sight”
The leading Republican presidential contenders have stood stubbornly behind President Bush on issue after issue and now they also appear to be standing behind his threat to veto health care for low-income children (SCHIP). America’s voters deserve to know: Would Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson veto the children’s health care bill that Congress will likely pass today?
The bill came up for discussion during an August debate in Iowa, “with the entire field siding with President Bush and against the proposed expansion of the federally funded children’s health insurance program that passed the Senate last week.” (Washington Times, 8/6/07) Rudy Giuliani called the plan “socialized medicine.” Just last month, John McCain voted against extending the bipartisan effort which has sent more than six million kids from low income families to the doctor, cutting the number of uninsured children by one-third. When asked if he supported the SCHIP bill, Mitt Romney used a page from President Bush’s failed playbook, saying that we need to rely on the private market, and while in the Senate, Fred Thompson consistently voted against providing insurance to low income children.
So Bush and the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination choose to protect big tobacco over providing the children of the working poor with health care. I don’t think it is appropriate to play politics where children’s health care is concerned but I don’t think that the Democrats are playing politics they are taking the moral high ground on this issue. The Democrats don’t want to see a veto from the President they want this bill to pass. It is the veto that will give the Democrats a political edge in the 2008 election not because of their action but because of the President’s reprehensible position and the lock step of his party’s Presidential candidates. The Democrats are rightfully pointing out the immorality of the President’s position.
Is it playing politics when you point out immorality? The answer is a resounding NO!