David S. Broder, Op-Ed Columnist for the Washington Post, explains in this morning's opinion piece "Following Bush Over a Cliff":
The spectacle Tuesday of 151 House Republicans voting in lock step with the White House against expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was one of the more remarkable sights of the year. Rarely do you see so many politicians putting their careers in jeopardy.
The bill they opposed, at the urging of President Bush, commands healthy majorities in both the House and Senate but is headed for a veto because Bush objects to expanding this form of safety net for the children of the working poor. He has staked out that ground on his own, ignoring or rejecting the pleas of conservative senators such as Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, who helped shape the compromise that the House approved and that the Senate endorsed.
Another intractable "hold the ground" position from Bush - who's more concerned with denying the Democratically-lead Congress a small victory than he is doing the right thing for the American people -- and the people, through their representatives, have spoken on this exact issue.
Governors of both parties -- 43 of them, again including conservatives such as Sonny Perdue of Georgia -- have praised the program. And they endorsed the congressional decision to expand the coverage to an additional 4 million youngsters, at the cost of an additional $35 billion over the next five years. The bill would be financed by a 61-cents-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes. If ever there was a crowd-pleaser of a bill, this is it. Hundreds of organizations -- grass-roots groups ranging from AARP to United Way of America and the national YMCA -- have called on Bush to sign the bill. America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest insurance lobbying group, endorsed the bill on Monday.
But the decider has spoken, and enough Republicans, not all but enough... are willing to follow him over this cliff to prevent an override of the veto in the House. The Senate looks like it could override a veto, but not the House.
The lemmings are on the march.
Bush's adamant stand may be peculiar to him, but the willingness of Republican legislators to line up with him is more significant. Bush does not have to face the voters again, but these men and women will be on the ballot in just over a year -- and their Democratic opponents will undoubtedly remind them of their votes.
Two of their smartest colleagues -- Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Ray LaHood of Illinois -- tried to steer House Republicans away from this political self-immolation, but they had minimal success. The combined influence of White House and congressional leadership -- and what I would have to call herd instinct -- prevailed.
Like lemmings over the cliff.
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