- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

President Bush yesterday vetoed a plan to increase funding for a children’s health care program by $35 billion over five years, saying the increase is a step toward socialized medicine.

Mr. Bush and congressional Republicans favor an increase of $5 billion instead, but Democrats are using the debate over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, to portray the Republican Party as pitiless toward poor children.

After issuing just the fourth veto of his presidency, Mr. Bush said that the Democratic increase “would move health care in this country in the wrong direction” and that the Democrats’ plan would add not only poor children, but also some children from families that can afford private health care and even some adults.

VIDEO:Bush vetoes children’s health plan

“Their proposal would result in taking a program meant to help poor children and turning it into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year,” Mr. Bush said. “If this bill were enacted, one out of every three children moving onto government coverage would be moving from private coverage.”

Democrats continued to hammer the president and congressional Republicans with accusations that they don’t care about penniless kids, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada calling the veto “heartless.”

“President Bush has turned his back on America’s children, and he stands alone,” Mr. Reid said, in what figures to become a staple of Democratic stump speeches during next year’s elections.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland called the veto “a stunning lack of compassion for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said, “This is probably the most inexplicable veto in the history of the country.”

Democratic presidential candidates also criticized the president, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York saying the veto proves that “these children are invisible to this president” and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois adding that it reflects “a callousness of priorities that is offensive to the ideals we hold as Americans.”

A frustrated White House press secretary Dana Perino said that Democrats “only sent a bill that they knew the president couldn’t sign and then used a lot of different ways to demagogue the issue against the president.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the Democrats’ bill “isn’t about taking care of poor kids.”

“This is one of the first phases of Hillarycare so they can have something to build on,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview yesterday with The Washington Times.

But House Republican leaders, knowing that their party must make up ground in the debate, released their own plan for a compromise on SCHIP yesterday, mostly reiterated the president’s plan. Some Republican presidential candidates defended the president’s decision, such as Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who said Mr. Bush made “the right call.”

“The American people have rebelled against out of control spending. If they can find a legitimate way to pay for it, I would consider it,” Mr. McCain said on CNN. “But … what is was supposed to be for low-income Americans is now up to 400 percent of the poverty level.”

Democrats and the liberal group MoveOn.org have used the debate over the bill to portray Republicans as “anti-children.”

The aggressive campaign, including radio ads by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in Republican districts, is targeting constituents through automated telephone calls and e-mails.

The House last week passed the measure in a 265-159 vote, about 20 votes shy of what would be needed to override a veto. The Senate passed the measure by 67-29, enough to override the veto.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that Democrats could overturn Mr. Bush’s veto by flipping about 15 Republicans and that she would bring the issue to a vote in about two weeks. But Mr. Boehner said Republicans would uphold the veto, “no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

c Christina Bellantoni, Sean Lengell and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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