- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Democrats are targeting five Republican House members this week with radio advertisements and telephone calls to criticize their votes against expanding a health care program for children.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is using the campaign to pursue significant expansion of the 10-year-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

Radio ads that started Monday are running in the districts of Republican Reps. James H. Saxton of New Jersey and C.W. Bill Young, Vern Buchanan and Tom Feeney of Florida. The committee also is operating an automated telephone campaign to voters in the district of Rep. Richard H. Baker, Louisiana Republican.

“This August we’re going district by district to urge Republicans to stop obstructing progress,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and DCCC chairman. “Republicans who continue to vote in lock step with President Bush and against children and seniors in their districts will be held accountable.”

AARP and the American Medical Association last month began a two-week, $1.3 million national television campaign in support of SCHIP.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also is airing nationwide TV ads for three weeks this month in support of SCHIP. The Princeton, N.J., foundation, which focuses on improving health care for Americans, paid about $2 million for the ads.

The National Republican Congressional Committee says the campaign will backfire because many voters in House Democrats’ districts oppose SCHIP.

“We are more than happy to have the SCHIP debate,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. “Because of the Democrats’ votes [for SCHIP], they are supporting cuts to Medicare and taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants.”

Republicans say versions of the bills that have passed both chambers of Congress would undermine the marketplace by offering coverage to children already insured privately and cutting Medicare benefits to the elderly.

The NRCC last week began running radio ads in the district of Rep. Zack Space, Ohio Democrat, criticizing his support of SCHIP.

The House bill proposes a $50 billion spending increase for the program over five years, for a total of about $75 billion. The plan would add an estimated 5 million children to the 6 million already enrolled in the program, which expires Sept. 30.

The Senate version, also passed this month, would spend an additional $35 billion over five years and would cover about 3 million children not currently enrolled.

To pay for the plans, House Democrats proposed a 45-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.

The Senate version calls for a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax but no cuts to Medicare Advantage.

Negotiators from each chamber will work out a final draft of the legislation in conference.

White House officials say the president will veto the legislation if it exceeds $30 billion.