As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The S-CHIP Pressure

The President did sign a sweeping new education bill today which cuts student loan rates in half and forgives debt for those who go into vital occupations like teaching or law enforcement. But the intransigence on S-CHIP is starting to make some noise. It's really an indefensible position.

The tragedy in Washington's escalating confrontation on children's healthcare is that the legislation Congress is on track to approve this week with substantial bipartisan support advances precisely the goal President Bush claims as his priority.

Bush says he wants the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal partnership up for renewal this year, to more narrowly target the poorest children. He's threatened to veto the bill Congress is completing because he charges it directs too much aid toward middle-income families and would prompt too many of them to drop private insurance and enroll in SCHIP.

But even conservative Senate Republicans such as Utah's Orrin Hatch and Iowa's Charles Grassley have complained that Bush's concerns are, to put it politely, overstated. The best studies of the legislation show that it predominantly focuses its benefits on struggling working families and targets uninsured kids more efficiently than the alternative Bush has touted.

If Bush vetoes the children's health bill, and Congress can't override him, more mandatory cost-sharing for middle-class families might help meet his concerns. The real question is whether Bush wants an agreement or a fight that paints congressional Democrats as big spenders. Until recently, his administration hadn't worried much about expanding eligibility: Since 2006, it has allowed three states (and the District of Columbia) to extend SCHIP to families earning up to $61,000. Bush's sudden alarm about including those families suggests less a change in policy priorities than a shift in political strategy.

The concerns about middle-class kids moving on to government-run health care are wildly overblown. The compromises have already been made to ensure the program is targeted. This is about denying Democrats a victory, which in this case is also denying American kids health care.

This is the same guy who never met a Republican spending bill he couldn’t sign. Not one. $300 million bridge to nowhere? Pass the pork. Half-trillion dollars on the road to quagmire in Iraq? Bring it on. But a few billion a year for health care for millions of kids? Forget it. Not this President. Not the “compassionate conservative.”

This time the President’s “coalition of the willing” is even more puny: a handful of right-wing ideologues who put half-baked economic theories above the all-too-real health problems of poor children and the bipartisan advice of, well, just about everyone else. Families support it. Doctors support it. Hospitals support it. Many Republican governors support it. Hell, even insurance companies like this bill! [...]

For Republicans, this S-CHIP bill is the worst threat of all: a bipartisan bill to expand a government program that actually works, and a chance for this Democratic Congress to deliver. That’s like kryptonite to Republicans, who honestly seem to think that America’s gain would be a Republican loss if it’s passed by a Democratic Congress.

The Senate passed cloture with 69 votes, more than enough to overcome a veto. We're 24 votes on the House side away from making this a reality. And I think the House leadership understands the importance of this enough to keep pressing until they get those votes.

UPDATE: Check out this ad against Mitch McConnell about S-CHIP.

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