House Democrats’ parliamentary maneuverings have bought them an additional two weeks to prepare for another round of political theater on renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Rather than taking a timely vote to override President Bush‘s Wednesday veto of the SCHIP expansion, Democrats have decided to postpone an override vote until Oct. 18. They hope the extra time will allow for enough behind-the-scenes arm-twisting to convince the 15 or so Republicans they need to override a presidential veto. They’re also hoping to persuade the eight Democrats who voted with Republicans last month to reverse themselves. Despite a clear warning from President Bush of an impending veto, both chambers approved an expansion of SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, a figure seven times higher than Mr. Bush’s proposal to increase the program by $5 billion.
As part of their latest political charade, Democrats are joining with their special-interest allies to launch a massive advertising campaign to trash politically vulnerable House members who are demanding fiscal restraint instead of backing a misguided bill that would expand SCHIP coverage to adults and upper-middle income families with incomes of up to $83,000 for a family of four. One liberal activist coalition includes everyone from the Service Employees International Union to MoveOn.org. Press reports indicate they’re spending up to $5 million this month on an advertising blitz they hope will intimidate members into supporting the march toward socialized medicine.
Fortunately, House Republicans are standing strong. Some 147 Republicans — enough to block an override — have signed a pledge of support to sustain a presidential veto of irresponsible spending bills. We hope these members honor their pledge. If so, the Democrats’ political theater will have been for naught — at least insofar as passing this bill is concerned. The SCHIP program, which provides coverage for some 6.6 million low-income children and expired on Sept. 30, will continue to receive funding until Nov. 16 under a continuing resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.
The question is whether Democrats will be willing to budge on the $35 billion SCHIP expansion they insist on peddling. All signs indicate the Democrats aren’t willing to come to the negotiating table to hash out a compromise. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to meet with Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, to come to a middle ground. “There’s absolutely been no effort to reach out and work in a bipartisan way,” Boehner spokesman Brian Kennedy told the Washington Times.
President Bush has said he is willing to start a dialogue on approving additional funding beyond his $5 billion request. But House Democrats have indicated they aren’t willing to budge and are stubbornly planning another vote on the same $35 billion bill. Rather than working for a serious compromise, congressional Democrats are digging in their heels in order to play the obstructionist. Their failure to produce much in the way of legislation is reflected in abysmal poll numbers. For now, the biggest losers are the SCHIP recipients they purportedly wish to help.