Republican Defectors May Defeat Threatened Veto of S-CHIP Extension
House and Senate leaders are negotiating a compromise bill to extend and expand the S-CHIP program, which allows children in certain low-to-middle income families to enroll in Medicaid. (The popular program will expire in ten days without Congressional renewal.) The compromise bill reportedly would permit states to extend the program to families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, sufficient to permit Ohio to go ahead with the plans reflected in the recently passed state budget.
However, Bush reiterated the other day that he would veto the compromise bill, and called on Congress to instead pass a law that essentially extends the program with very little increase. The Senate version of the extension passed with a veto-proof bipartisan majority (it got 68 votes), but the House version did not (225-204). Thus, the question becomes whether enough additional GOP legislators will defect in order to defeat a veto.
Suddenly, the signs are looking good. This morning I spoke to a contact working on the issue who said that already at least three of Ohio's eleven Republican members of Congress will vote for the law. (None did so last time.) And now there is this news item at the Washington Post today, hinting at mass desertion of the White House by GOP legislators in this battle:
Republicans reacted angrily yesterday to President Bush's promise to veto a bill that would renew and expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, raising the likelihood of significant GOP defections when the package comes to a vote next week.Also cited in the article are Rep. Ra LaHood (R-IL), who says he is trying to get 20 to 30 House Republicans to vote for the compromise, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who when asked if he would override a veto said "You bet your sweet bippy I will."
"I'm disappointed by the president's comments," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who urged Bush, in an early-morning telephone conversation yesterday, to support the emerging bipartisan compromise. "Drawing lines in the sand at this stage isn't constructive. . . . I wish he would engage Congress in a bill that he could sign instead of threatening a veto.
"I'm very, very disappointed," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). "I'm going to be voting for it."