Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance
WASHINGTON, July 14 — The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.
The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children.
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said: “The president’s senior advisers will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the president would veto it.”
The program, which insured 7.4 million people at some time in the last year, is set to expire Sept. 30.
The Finance Committee is expected to approve the Senate plan next week, sending it to the full Senate for action later this month.
Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said he would move ahead despite the veto threat.
“The Senate will not be deterred from helping more kids in need,” Mr. Baucus said. “The president should stop playing politics and start working with Congress to help kids, through renewal of this program.”
The proposal would increase current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years, bringing the total to $60 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.
The new spending would be financed by an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax on cigarettes would rise to $1 a pack, from the current 39 cents.
Mr. Fratto, the White House spokesman, said, “Tax increases are neither necessary nor advisable to fund the program appropriately.”
Democrats in the House would go much further than the bipartisan Senate plan. They would add $50 billion to the program over five years, bringing the total to $75 billion. By contrast, in his latest budget request, Mr. Bush proposed an increase of $5 billion over five years, which would bring the total to $30 billion.
White House officials said the president had several other reasons to veto the bipartisan Senate plan.
“The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending,” Mr. Fratto said. “This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”
In addition, Mr. Fratto said, the Senate plan does not include any of Mr. Bush’s proposals to change the tax treatment of health insurance, in an effort to make it more affordable for millions of Americans.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said he would like to consider such tax proposals. But, he said, “it’s not realistic — given the lack of bipartisan support for the president’s plan — to think that can be accomplished before the current children’s health care program runs out in September.”http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/washington/15child.html?ex=1342152000&en