House Child-Health Redo Isn’t Veto-Proof


By: Wall Street Journal

By DAVID ROGERS
October 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — The House approved a revised children’s health bill but fell short of a veto-proof majority, forcing Democrats to rethink their tactics to expand coverage for the children of working-class families.

The latest skirmish came last evening on a 265-142 vote to adopt a retooled version of the same child health-care bill vetoed by President Bush Oct. 3.

That measure promised to spend an additional $35 billion over the next five years to extend coverage to 3.8 million children who would otherwise be uninsured. The new bill keeps to this framework but also addresses concerns of Republicans, who want any expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or Schip, to focus on putting poor children first.

States would be barred from extending coverage to households above 300% of the poverty level. So-called bonus payments would be targeted toward the enrollment of the poorest children, eligible for Medicaid. Tighter protections are promised to guard against illegal immigrants’ inclusion in the program.

But only 43 Republicans joined in support, no improvement over two prior votes. And Democrats appear to have hit a wall that could force some reassessment in tactics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said she is confident she will ultimately prevail, but the continued stalemate is a double-edged sword that could hurt her as well as Republicans.

After failing to override the first veto last week, House Democrats were optimistic that they could turn the situation around quickly. But the results suggest Ms. Pelosi moved too fast and kept herself too far removed from dealing with the moderates. Two Senate Republicans were used to negotiate with House Republicans, and that created a situation where Democrats and Republicans weren’t really working side by side until the bill was rushed to the floor. At the same time, Republican moderates felt uncomfortable being pushed at the expense of their leadership.

“They unite our guys by jamming us,” said one Republican leadership aide. “Sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

Write to David Rogers at david.rogers@wsj.com

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