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SCHIP Is Back: House Vote Today

SCHIP kidsLast night Speaker Pelosi announced she would bring a slightly revised SCHIP funding bill to the House floor for a vote — today. The revised bill still provides $35 billion in additional funds and health coverage for 10 million children, but it makes a few changes to counter the Bush Administration’s misrepresentations and opponent’s alleged concerns.

As Pelosi promised last week, the plan is to enact the full SCHIP funding again, and if the President is foolish and heartless enough to veto it again, attempt another override, with the opposition having even fewer excuses to vote no. This type of strategy is exactly what many progressives have been hoping from the Democratic leadership when they know the public is solidly behind them against an out-of-touch, unpopular President. It’s not just good politics; it’s good public policy, because this program deserves passage and has the overwhelming support of the American people.

The changes include clarification that coverage does not extend to families with annual incomes at $83,000 (a confusion left over from New York’s request that the Administration had already denied); it apparently won’t cover those not legally in the US for five years; and it further limits coverage for adults who do not have covered children.

Although the “revision” regarding immigrants appears only a clarification of what was already in the prior bill, the absence of potential coverage for undocumented immigrants is particularly regrettable; denying health care to any child is both morally unconscionable and incomprehensible from a public health perspective. But in light of yesterday’s 52-44 failed cloture vote — 60 were needed — on the DREAM Act, which would have allowed those undocumented immigrants brought to the US when they were 15 or younger to earn a path to legal status after two years of college or military service [see Marisa Trevino’s post and Phoenix Woman’s coverage], that exclusion in SCHIP appeared politically unavoidable. Add that to the list of 100+ other really important things we need to fix in 2009.

From Speaker Pelosi’s statement:

“It’s supported by a bipartisan coalition, Democrats and Republicans across the country. Republican and Democratic governors support the SCHIP initiative. Every organization that you can name, from the AARP to the YWCA, and everything in between, AMA, the Catholic Hospital Association, Families First, are lobbying for the passage of this legislation. . . .

“The focus is on the poor children. These are poor children. The poorest children receive their health care through Medicaid. Then just above that tier, the working poor families, the focus is there and we’re very proud of the legislation.

“It honors the spirit of 10 million children, $35 billion all paid for, no new deficit spending, pay as you go. And again, this is a clarification of the legislation that we put forth to ensure these children. We are responding to some of the concerns expressed by our colleagues and some clarification that we thought improved the bill.”

The White House, already concerned about having to go behind closed doors again to veto a popular children’s health program, issued a “fact sheet” — meaning it is full of misrepresentations and diversions. Bill Scher at Campaign for America’s Future debunks that nonsense, while The Hill reports on how anxious Bush loyalist Republicans are to be seen as willing to compromise.

This is what we asked for; it’s what Democrats need to do. So we’ll need your phone help again, both in getting the revised bill passed by large margins and in working to override the expected veto. And if we need extra motivation, ask why is this man still smiling?

We’ve taken some lumps lately, with the first SCHIP override vote and then Southwick’s confirmation and the DREAM Act failing cloture. But this is one we can win . . . and/or make the opposition pay dearly next November. And who knows; if the Democrats actually win one, they might be willing to stand up to Bush on FISA.

Photo: Kids hauling petitions to override the SCHIP veto. (AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley