Bush plans to veto another children's health insurance expansion - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bush plans to veto another children's health insurance expansion

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Wednesday was ready to veto legislation that passed with bipartisan support to dramatically expand government-provided health insurance for children.

It would be Bush's seventh veto in seven years. Bush vetoed an earlier version of the health insurance program.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate by a veto-proof margin, but the same was not true in the House. Even after the bill was approved, negotiations continued on a compromise version.

A major point of contention with the White House was Bush's demand that nearly all poor children eligible for the program be found and enrolled before those in slightly higher-income families could be covered. 

Bush also has opposed using an increased tobacco tax to fund the program expansion. The bill includes a 61-cent rise on a package of cigarettes.

The replacement measure was designed to meet Republican objections to the first bill. But it was little changed.

It would increase funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years, in order to add an estimated 4 million people to an existing program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children.

Bush's veto in early October of a similar bill was narrowly upheld by the House.

But the votes are uncomfortable for GOP lawmakers. It is a popular program with the public, making some Republicans wary of sticking with Bush on such an issue with the 2008 elections looming. Of the 43 million people nationwide who lack health insurance, more than 6 million are under 18 years old. That's more than 9 percent of all children.

Democratic leaders have tried to capitalize on this dynamic to win more Republicans to their side on the bill, but so far Bush has maintained a veto-proof majority, at least in the House. A two-thirds vote in both chambers is required to override a presidential veto.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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