Huzzah! The SCHIP Refunding and Expansion Measure cleared a major hurdle today with its House passage, and is now one stop closer... to a White House veto.
Over angry Republican objections, the House on Wednesday passed a sweeping expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, financed with increases in tobacco taxes and cuts in subsidies to private Medicare insurance plans for older Americans.
The bill embodies the Democrats' vision for health care, taking a step toward the goal of universal coverage while reversing what they see as Republican efforts to "privatize Medicare."
By a vote of 225 to 204, the bill passed, with support from 220 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Ten Democrats joined 194 Republicans in voting against it. The bill would provide coverage for more than four million uninsured children in low-income families, prevent cuts in doctors' Medicare payments scheduled for Jan. 1 and raise the federal cigarette tax 45 cents a pack, to 84 cents.
It would also increase assistance to low-income Medicare recipients and eliminate co-payments for most preventive care provided to Medicare recipients.
Passing the bill was a major achievement for the new Democratic House leaders. When Nancy Pelosi took the gavel as speaker in January, she was surrounded by the children of House members, and she called the House to order in the name of "all America's children."
President Bush has threatened to veto the House bill, developed entirely by Democrats, and a more modest bipartisan measure, expected to win Senate approval this week. Lawmakers see an urgent need for action because the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers 6.6 million youngsters, is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.
Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said, "Today's debate comes down to this: Do you favor big tobacco or children?"
We all know the Republicans will choose the Merchants of Death over children any day. Merchants of Death can afford better lobbyists.
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