House sustains SCHIP veto

Rough debate, expected vote

Published October 18, 2007 5:06PM (EDT)

Democrats in the House often complain that the Senate is where good bills go to die. Today, the shoe is on the other foot. While there appear to be enough votes in the Senate to overturn the president's veto of legislation expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, supporters in the House have just fallen short.

The vote -- 273-156, 13 shy of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto -- came after a nasty TV-and-blog fight and then a contentious debate on the House floor. At one point, Democratic Rep. Pete Stark said that the president's claim to care about healthcare for children shouldn't be taken any more seriously than his "lies" about Iraq, and that under the "Republican plan" for the war, we "will have killed" 20,000 soldiers by 2013, when SCHIP funding would have dropped under the bill Bush vetoed. Republican Rep. Joe Barton moved to have Stark's words stricken from the record.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's going to keep fighting for the expansion. But with today's vote, Bush's veto stands, and she doesn't have much in the way of leverage left. Yes, polls show that the public is with the Democrats on this one. But the polls have also shown that a majority of Americans prefer Democratic positions on the war in Iraq, too. Look what that has gotten them.

Just before today's vote, White House press secretary Dana Perino -- told, falsely, by a reporter that the vote had already happened -- said that the president would seek a compromise with SCHIP supporters and might be amenable to putting more money into the program if "the evidence" shows that it's needed. Democrats say they've already compromised enough. Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois told CNN Wednesday night: "There will be no compromise on 10 million children's healthcare. We won't go above it, but we ain't going below it."

We'll see.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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