- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Capitol Hill Democrats and MoveOn.org have ramped up efforts to portray Republicans as “anti-children” for opposing a major expansion of federally funded health insurance for low-income children.

The aggressive campaign, including radio ads by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in Republican districts, pursues votes to override a promised White House veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.
VIDEO: 11 a.m. Bush vetoes children’s health insurance bill

It also targets constituents through automated telephone calls and e-mails.

“We’re going district by district to tell Republicans and President Bush to stop obstructing progress and start putting children first,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and DCCC chairman.

“Republicans who continue to vote in lockstep with President Bush and against children will be held accountable.”

Mr. Bush, who is expected to veto the measure today, favors increasing the program by $5 billion — not the $35 billion passed by Congress.

The president said the veto, which appears unlikely to be overridden, is needed to prevent the Democrat-led Congress from taking incremental steps toward “socialized” health care. He said middle-class families should not be eligible for the program.

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, rhetorically asked, “How the president can sleep at night?” by threatening to veto the bill.

“The president is hurting the children” by his veto threat, Mr. Reid said.

Democrat-friendly advocacy groups, such as MoveOn and Americans United for Change, also mounted publicity campaigns to urge the president not to veto the bill.

Republicans leaders, after meeting with Mr. Bush at the White House yesterday, accused Democrats of using the issue to make political hay.

“It’s pretty easy to demagogue something like children’s health care,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The House last week passed the measure by a vote of 265-159 — about 20 votes shy of what would be needed to override a veto. The Senate passed the measure by a “veto-proof” margin of 67-29.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said about 15 Republicans would need to change their votes in order to overturn a veto — a prospect he said yesterday is attainable. Eight Democrats voted no and three didn’t vote.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said he is “absolutely confident” that House Republicans will be able to sustain the president’s veto.

SCHIP, which is a federal-state partnership, subsidizes the cost of insuring children living in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

The measure would add about 3.8 million children to the 6.6 million currently enrolled. Its price tag will increase from $25 billion to $60 billion over the next five years.

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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