Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Conservatives Threaten To Play Ideological Politics With SCHIP Program

The other day I reported that reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program was behind schedule. This morning Donny Shaw at Congress Gossip Blog reports that reauthorization is slowly lurching forward. Quoting a CongressDaily (subscription required) article Shaw reports:

The Senate Finance Committee has agreed to a roughly $35 billion package to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program funded almost exclusively by a cigarette tax increase, committee members said today. The bill, which will be released Friday in advance of a markup next Tuesday, also includes language that will phase out adult enrollment in the program to make room for more children. The $35 billion that comes from a 61-cents per pack cigarette tax is short of the $50 billion allotted for SCHIP under the budget resolution, but Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said the phase-out of adult coverage would allow about 2 million children who are currently eligible but not enrolled in SCHIP to receive benefits. "The compromise that was struck has savings in it because adults are moved off of it so that kids can be moved on to it," said Smith, who proposed an increase earlier this year from the 39-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes.
It is hard to know if Shaw's blog post reflects any real reporting or where that real reporting ends because he concludes his post by citing some typical "divorced from reality" crap found in an ideologically driven Heritage Foundation article. Shaw then repeats the slippery slope argument popular among belief tank Conservatives and concludes
What is certain, however, is that while George W. Bush is President, any real increase in SCHIP --even this modest compromise that is $15 billion below what the Democrats wanted -- will be impossible. The same CongressDaily article explains that Bush is likely to veto the bill and that he will back a Republican alternative that better reflects their policy preference.
Following this story will probably require some real reporting. Sorry Donny, we need somebody who actually reports. Belief tank propaganda doesn't count. The folks who write those things rarely visit the outside world. For example, while SCHIP might be unpopular among the ideologues at the Heritage Foundation, it is very popular with Republican governors, many of whom are running for reelection next year. They are going to be pushing like hell for full funding. Bush, in desperate need of a legislative success, will be hard pressed not to sign the bill. It could happen, but don't count on a veto.