Monday, July 16, 2007

President Bush is Not Backing Down on His SCHIP Veto Threat

The President is sticking to his guns over his threatened veto of the Senate Finance Committee bipartisan deal to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) at a cost of $35 billion. The deal would expand S-CHIP and pay for it with a big 61 cent cigarette tax--taking the federal per pack tax to $1.

A White House spokesman said on Saturday that his advisers "will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the president would veto it."

The White House seemed to also be offering a way out: "Congress needs to deliver a bill the president can sign or they need to send him an extension so that people don't worry about losing their current coverage."

That last comment about an extension looks like the President is willing to extend the existing plan. There was no mention of where the money to pay for it should come from.

The President is holding firm on limiting S-CHIP because he believes the program has already gone well beyond its original intent of covering only poor children (under 200% of poverty in this case) and the new Senate Finance deal would take it even further.

The President sees the existing S-CHIP program, and the new and larger version pending in Senate Finance, as encroaching on the private health insurance market.

The President is worried that this is an expansion of government-provided health insurance to the detriment of his proposed private market policies.

However, Republican Senators like Grassley and Hatch don't agree with him. Grassley said in response to the President's veto threat, the Senate Finance deal "refocuses S-CHIP on low-income children cost effectively, using appropriate targeting policies." He went on, the plan "straightens out the mess created by all the waivers that have spent program resources on adults and higher-income kids."

A show-down between the Congress--including prominent Republicans--and the President over S-CHIP is upon us.

Unless a deal is struck, the Congress may have no alternative but to pass a continuing S-CHIP resolution and bury the final outcome in the year-end budget process that will include dozens of things not the least of which is a solution to the upcoming Medicare physician fee cuts and likely cuts in Medicare Advantage payments to HMOs.

Bush looks to me like he is in the mood to veto lots of spending bills and that could really give us a year-end donnybrook!

Earlier post:
Key Republican Senators Call on President Bush Not to Veto S-CHIP Reauthorization--A President Acting Like He Has Nothing to Lose
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