This morning Steny Hoyer delivered the following Democratic response to President Bush's defense of his veto last Wednesday of the bipartisan S-CHIP legislation.
Over the past several months, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have negotiated a bipartisan extension of the highly successful childrens health insurance program known as CHIP - a program enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress in 1997, with strong Democratic support, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
CHIP provides health insurance coverage for over six and one-half million American children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.
However, millions of other children who are currently eligible for this health insurance are not enrolled due to the programs limited resources.
To address this, our bipartisan legislation provides funding for approximately four million more children - ensuring that at least 10 million low-income children in our nation receive the health care coverage they need and deserve. Thats good for them and for our country.
This legislation does not change current eligibility guidelines. It simply strengthens CHIPs financing, covers more low-income children, and improves the quality of care they receive.
Sadly, on Wednesday, President Bush - in the face of bipartisan majorities in Congress, and contrary to the will of the American people - vetoed our bipartisan bill.
The President claims - wrongly - that this bill is fiscally irresponsible.
The truth is, this legislation is fully paid for. It does not add one nickel to the deficit or to the debt.
Furthermore, under the Presidents proposal more than 800,000 children who now receive coverage under CHIP would lose that coverage.
The President claims that this legislation would lead to a government takeover of health insurance. He is wrong.
The truth is, Americas largest private insurance lobbying group supports this bill - as do Americas doctors, nurses, childrens advocates, 43 governors, and, most importantly, 72 percent of Americans.
The claims made against this bill are simply wrong.
As Senator Pat Roberts, a senior Republican from Kansas, recently said: I am not for excessive spending and strongly oppose the federalization of health care. And if the Administrations concerns with this bill were accurate, I would support a veto. But, Senator Roberts added: Bluntly put, they are not.
Most puzzling of all, perhaps, is the fact that the Presidents veto violates his own campaign promise.
In 2004, at the Republican National Convention, the President promised (and I quote): In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs. We will not allow, he said, a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.
But he has done just that.
But the Congress has done exactly what the President said he was going to do, if re-elected.
Yet today, the only thing standing between millions of American children and the health insurance they need and deserve is one person. The President is saying no to these children he promised to help.
This is a defining moment for this Congress.
In the words of Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, we've got to do what we can to try to override the Presidents veto.
In the days ahead, we will work to persuade many of our Republican colleagues, who insist on standing with the President, to instead join the bipartisan majorities in Congress - and Americas children - in overriding this veto.
I urge all of you: Contact your Member of Congress.
Ask them to support our children.
Ask them to do what the President promised to do when he sought re-election.
Ask them to vote to override the Presidents veto and ensure health care for our kids and for their future.
Thank you for listening. This is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
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