Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bush faces battle on health bill

IRONIC Stratospheric war budgets are not going down well with people who seek to provide health insurance to the 10 million children from low-income families


Democrats and their allies mapped out a strategy on Friday that they hoped would enable them to override US President George W. Bush's expected veto of a bipartisan bill providing health insurance for 10 million children, most of them in low-income families.

Democratic leaders said they would highlight the contrast between the president's request for large sums of money for the Iraq war and his opposition to smaller sums for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "It's ironic that in the very same week that the president says he's going to veto the bill because we can't afford it, he is asking, what, for US$45 billion more over and above his initial request for the war in Iraq, money that we know is being spent without accountability, without a plan for how we can leave Iraq."

"This is all a matter of priorities: the cost of Iraq, US$333 million a day. The cost of SCHIP, US$19 million a day," Representative Edward Kennedy said.

The campaign for the legislation will also include grass-roots advocacy and political advertisements and will initially focus on about 15 House Republicans who voted against the bill. Supporters of the legislation hope to persuade them to switch.

But House Republican leaders said they felt sure they could sustain the veto and two lawmakers on the Democrats' list said in interviews that they would support the president.

The bill passed last week by the House and the Senate would provide US$60 billion for the program over the next five years, up US$35 billion from the current level of spending. On Wednesday, the administration said it would seek US$42 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing its total request to nearly US$190 billion for the next fiscal year, which begins tomorrow.

In an interview on Friday, House minority whip Roy Blunt said there was "a 100 percent probability" that the House would sustain the president's veto. But, Blunt said, the coincidental timing of the vote on the child health bill and the request for money in Iraq "was not helpful."

The White House, on the defensive, is trying to bolster Republicans who fear they might be penalized by voters if they side with the president.

"It is preposterous for people to suggest that the president of the United States doesn't care about children, that he wants children to suffer," White House press secretary Dana Perino said on Friday.

Perino said Bush had a policy difference with congressional Democrats because he did not want "additional government-run health care, socialized-type medicine."

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