House Democratic leaders promise to draft a new plan to cover millions of uninsured low-income children if the chamber fails to override a veto this week on a children’s health care program.
The issue is “not going to die,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re going to go back, and we’re going to pass another bill” if the veto is sustained.
The Democrat-controlled Congress last month passed a $35 billion spending increase for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) during the next five years, raising funding to $60 billion.
The measure would add about 4 million children to the 6.6 million currently enrolled in the 10-year-old program.
President Bush vetoed the bill on the grounds that it was too costly and would expand care to some middle-class families.
Republican leaders insist that they have enough votes to sustain the veto when the House holds its override vote Thursday — a claim neither Mr. Hoyer nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have disputed in recent days.
“Isn’t that sad for America’s children?” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, when asked about Republican efforts to sustain the veto during her appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” yesterday.
“We’ll try very hard to override it. But one thing’s for sure: We won’t rest until those 10 million children have health care,” she said.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner accused Democrats of playing “political games” with the bill.
“When they designed the bill, they knew it would be vetoed,” the Ohio Republican said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Hoyer said the veto override vote will be a “defining moment for the Republican Party.”
“They’re going to say whether they are, in fact, a compassionate community, or whether they’re going to unthinkingly follow the dictates of their party and their president against the program that the overwhelming majority of their constituents are for,” the Maryland Democrat said.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, denied that the legislative debate would leave any lasting negative effects on his party.
“This is going to be like a pebble in the ocean, a short-term controversy, a big partisan struggle, and then it’s going to be over,” Mr. McConnell said yesterday on “This Week.”
The Senate passed the SCHIP bill last month by a veto-proof margin of 67-29. But the House tally of 265-159 fell about 20 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto.
House Democrats said 14 Republicans would need to change their votes in order to override a veto.