Thursday afternoon, by a vote of 273 to 156, the House of Representatives failed to gather the 290 votes needed to override the president’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill (SCHIP). Both the Senate and House have previously cast bipartisan votes to reauthorize this ten-year-old program and to extend coverage to an additional ten million children who live in low-income families with no health insurance, even though the average annual cost of the expansion was less than three weeks of Iraq war spending.
Bush’s veto required that two-thirds of the 435 House members vote to override the veto before the bill can become law. Despite overwhelming public support and the backing of many in the medical and health insurance industries, the president and his House allies have carried on a campaign of mistruths and unfounded allegations, leading to the bill’s demise this afternoon.
NOW decries the cruelty of denying the most basic health care to children whose parents cannot afford health insurance. The 156 House members — 154 Republicans and two Democrats — who voted against the override have let down not only the vulnerable children of this nation, but also put an undue burden on single parents and low-income families who can only pray their children do not get sick or hurt.
“It’s purely political,” says NOW President Kim Gandy. “George Bush has no trouble funding a government sponsored, ‘socialized’ war, yet bristles at the thought of helping poor children who need health care, branding the expanded SCHIP as a program leading us down the slippery slope to ‘socialized’ medicine.” In his book it’s fine to provide subsidies, tax breaks and federal grants to industries, businesses and colleges to ensure their economic health and well-being, but kids just don’t count.
The vetoed bill would have extended health insurance coverage to an additional four million low-income children and would have cost $35 billion over five years, an average of $7 billion per year, compared to the $12 billion every month that George Bush is spending in Iraq. The President says he might sign a proposal to reauthorize the program and increase the spending by $5 billion — but with inflation, that amount would represent a reduction in real dollars, which means that 1 million children who are currently covered by the states with SCHIP funding will be kicked out of the health insurance plan. The failed SCHIP legislation was already a shell of its former self because the final proposal did not include the House-passed language allowing legal immigrant children to participate in the program.
“It’s hard to imagine that Bush, his Cabinet, and all 154 of those Republicans in Congress are enjoying ‘government funded’ healthcare, subsidized by the same taxpayers who overwhelmingly supported continuing and enhancing the SCHIP program,” said Gandy. “It may be time for those 154 members of Congress to go without health care for awhile … or get lost. They have let down the children and the parents in their Congressional districts who are wondering where they will ever get the money or the job that will enable them to provide health care for their families,” said Gandy.