WASHINGTON (AP) – Montana’s congressional delegation expressed disappointment Thursday that Congress was unable to override President Bush’s veto of an effort to expand a popular children’s health insurance program.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was a lead sponsor of the bill. In a statement, he vowed to continue fighting for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now subsidizes coverage for about 6 million children at a cost of about $5 billion a year.
“This fight is so far from over. The fat lady isn’t even warming up,” Baucus said. “It just means we need to regroup and bring more people to the table. It means we need to tweak the bill slightly while making sure it does what we need it to do, cover more uninsured kids.”
The vetoed bill would have covered 10 million children, most of them from low-income families, at an added cost of about $7 billion a year. To pay for the increase, the bill would have raised the federal tax on cigarettes from 39 cents to $1.00 a pack.
The Senate version of the bill passed with a veto-proof margin, but the House needed a two-thirds majority to override Bush’s veto. Republican opponents have said the bill would encourage too many middle-income families to substitute government-subsidized insurance for private insurance.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., promised to work with Baucus on the issue.
“Like a vast majority of Montanans, I just don’t understand why President Bush and many Republicans in Congress don’t consider health care for children a national priority,” Tester said in a statement. “It’s a shame they’re putting millions of kids at risk while they play partisan politics with CHIP.”
The state’s lone House member, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, also expressed disappointment Thursday.
“It’s disappointing that our efforts to override the President’s veto fell short. It’s absolutely critical we provide this health insurance for Montana’s kids,” Rehberg said in a statement.
He added that he would work to reach a compromise on a new bill.
“We’re all going to have to give and take a bit more to get this thing done, but it’s what we’ve got to do,” he said. “America’s kids are counting on us.”
Related: Healthcare Cutting the Bottomline
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