Over the weekend, White House spokesman Tony Fratto told the New York Times that there is "no question" that President Bush will veto a bipartisan plan to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover what estimates put as between 3 and 4 million more of the nation's uninsured children. According to the Senate Finance Committee, whose members have been crafting a bill to reauthorize SCHIP in preparation for its expiration Sept. 30, the program currently covers 6.6 million children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private health insurance.
The plan for expansion would more than double the $25 billion currently spent on the program, and would raise the extra money by increasing the tax already levied on tobacco products from 39 cents to $1.
In explaining why the president would threaten a veto, Fratto said:
"The proposal would dramatically expand the Children's Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than [double] the level of spending ... This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program."
The Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of the reauthorization plan later this month. According to the New York Times, Democrats in the House want to increase funding for the program beyond what the Senate compromise calls for -- $50 billion over five years instead of the Finance Committee's proposed $35 billion -- while President Bush would increase funding by only $5 billion over the same period.
Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has used his veto power only twice. He issued his first veto in July 2006, halting Congress' attempt to ease restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. And in May, he vetoed a bill that would have tied funding for the war in Iraq to a timetable on withdrawal of U.S. forces.