House Passes Revised SCHIP Bill Without Veto-Proof Majority

Posted October 25, 2007 at 4:17pm

The House approved a revised version of its children’s health insurance bill Thursday, but Democratic leaders failed once again to win enough Republican support to ensure a veto-proof majority.

The measure passed, 265-142, with 43 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, a decrease from the 45 GOP lawmakers who crossed party lines to support a nearly identical bill in early September. Twenty-six Members did not vote.

“This is not a perfect bill. It is an excellent bipartisan compromise,” asserted Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), speaking on the House floor.

Democrats aimed to address Republican criticisms over the $35 billion measure intended to cover 10 million children via several last-minute “clarifications.”

Among those changes, Democrats agreed to rapidly phase out the inclusion of childless adults from the program within a one-year period. The bill also seeks to limit the program to low-income children by prohibiting participation by families with incomes within 300 percent of the federal poverty level. In addition, changes also aimed to strengthen prohibitions designed to prevent illegal immigrants from participating in the program by requiring the Social Security Administration to confirm a participant’s residency status.

But Republicans, including some Members who ultimately voted in favor of the measure, criticized Democrats for rushing the legislation to the House floor without allowing lawmakers to review the revised bill first, asserting doing so could have gained the legislation additional bipartisan support.

“I thought they cared about the policy, now I think they care about the politics. If they care about the policy they’d put the bill off until Tuesday,” Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said. “We’ve put off votes around here for everything from baptisms to bar mitzvahs.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) asserted Democrats have “already bought their TV ads to run against us and they can’t get their money back.”

Democrats also were criticized for scheduling the vote on the same day some Southern California lawmakers returned to their districts to visit areas damaged by wildfires.

“Whether you have the vote today or Monday at 6:30 it’s not going to make any difference,” Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) said.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended the decision to advance the legislation, asserting that the House must act expediently for the bill to reach the president’s desk before the end of the calendar year.

“We’re holding the vote today because it fits into our legislative calendar,” Pelosi said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday he would move the House bill as soon as possible.

The SCHIP bill already had expired but was extended to Nov. 16 as part of the continuing resolution to fund the government.

President Bush vetoed a similar bill earlier this month and the House failed to override that action in a vote late last week.

The Office of Management and Budget issued an official policy statement Thursday advising the president to similarly veto the new legislation, which would be paid for by a 61-cents-a-pack tobacco tax hike.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.