In a vote of 67-29, the Senate passed reauthorization legislation for the $35 billion State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) after it was passed by the House two days earlier with a vote of 265-159. The legislation is now en route to the President’s desk, who is still expected to veto the bill.
If passed, the program will be financed by an increase in cigarette taxes, with the federal excise tax rising to $1 per pack from 39 cents. Big tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris and Reynolds American Inc. have become dedicated opposition groups lobbying against the proposal.
Despite the veto promise from President Bush, the Senate moved toward approving the expansion of the program, linking both Republicans and Democrats desire to fund healthcare for the nation’s children. It takes a two-thirds majority of Congress to override a veto. The Senate could have done it, but the House was about 25 votes shy of that mark.
SCHIP now covers 6.6 million children. The reauthorization would allow the nationwide number to grow to 10 million. However the President wants that number to remain number flat and has proposed infusing the program with $5 billion in additional money.