Congressional Dems concede SCHIP fight

Stymied by their inability to override a presidential veto, the Dems walk away from plans to expand the health insurance plan -- Republicans are claiming victory.

By Alex Koppelman

Published December 19, 2007 7:15PM (EST)

For months now, Congress has been embroiled in a bitter battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance to families stuck in the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and being able to afford private insurance. As SCHIP faced expiration, Democrats, and some Republicans, wanted to expand the program's reach and add $35 billion of funding. But President Bush opposed the idea, vetoing two bills and, seemingly, providing Democrats with one heck of a wedge issue come election time. The Senate was able to override Bush's veto, but a vote in the House of Representatives fell short of the number needed for an override. So Senate Democrats have accepted a Republican plan that will keep the program running -- without the expansion -- through March 2009.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The Hill that Democrats haven't given up on their current efforts entirely, and in January the House will vote to try once more to override the veto, though last time the override failed by about a dozen votes.

Republicans are painting this as a victory. The Hill quotes House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) as saying, "It's certainly another example of the Democrats caving to the Republican position at the eleventh hour." Indeed, this is just one part of what is being portrayed in the national media as a series of wholesale Democratic legislative defeats, especially over the budget. U.S. News' Political Bulletin blog has a roundup of the coverage of the omnibus spending bill recently passed by the Senate. Their headline is "Bush Bests Democrats In Budget Battle," and they note, "The bill's passage is portrayed today as a big victory for President Bush -- and a defeat for Democrats."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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