The Senate is nearing passage of a bill that would renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a bill President Bush has promised to veto. With a final tally of 67-29, the Senate has more than enough votes for a veto override, but the House — which passed the bill Tuesday — does not.
The Senate debate came just four days before the popular SCHIP program is set to expire. It currently covers an estimated 6 million low-income children.
Republicans who support President Bush say the five-year, $35 billion expansion, which would double the program's funding, is simply too big. And, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, Democrats are playing politics with the program.
"Democrats are counting down the hours, so they can tee up the election ads, saying Republicans don't like kids," McConnell said. "Meanwhile, they are using SCHIP as a Trojan horse to sneak government-run health care into the states."
But nearly 20 Republicans in the Senate are siding with the Democrats, including conservatives like Pat Roberts of Kansas. They say the Bush administration is playing politics, too — by misrepresenting the bill.
"The administration is unfortunately claiming this bill does things that the bill simply does not do," Roberts said. "It's sort of an SCHIP in Wonderland."
Meanwhile, the program won't expire on Sunday, no matter what happens to the bill. Lawmakers have included temporary funding for SCHIP as part of the separate spending bill needed to keep the rest of the government running through mid-November.