ON SCHIP, Reid Says Maybe He’d Look at Some Tweaks

Oct 16, 2007 8:00pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: The vote to override President Bush’s veto of the $35 billion expansion of the SCHIP program is not until Thursday. But it seems doomed to fail and Democrats for the first time indicated today that, while they would not compromise with President Bush, they might be open to letting him "tweak" the bill a little bit. Political parsing at its best.

The President and Congressional Republicans who oppose expanding the program at that level have changed their tactic in opposing the primarily Democratic bill. They’re accusing Democrats of refusing to sit down at the table and even talk.

"I hope that the Democratic leadership will, now that the president’s veto is going to be upheld, which I expect it will be tomorrow in the House, to rethink their decision not to compromise, will, sort of, forego the political gamesmanship and partisan point scoring that seems to dominate so much of what happens here in Washington and get on with taking care of business, particularly when the lives and the health of low-income children are at stake." said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex, after a weekly Republican strategy meeting at.

President bush said much the same thing yesterday.

"The House is going to decide whether or not they’re going to sustain my veto. And if they should sustain my veto, I call upon the leadership in the Congress to come to the table and let us make sure we get money to those families that the program was intended to help, first and more foremost," the President said.

A temporary extension of the SCHIP program runs out November 16th. Republicans want to extend that level of funding for 18 months so they said a compromise could be worked out. This notion was dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as unacceptable.

"We have compromised and compromised and compromised," Reid said. "For the President to come now and say lets compromise is disingenuous. Supporters of the bipartisan SCHIP bill point out that continuing SCHIP funding at current levels for 18 months would actually result in about 1 million or more children being bumped from the program during that time.

Reid pointed out that the bipartisan bill the President vetoed was been tamed from $70 billion when it was first introduced in the House of Representatives to $35 billion that passed the Senate.

"He (President Bush) goes around talking about 86 million dollars for the state of NY and that is as phony as a 12 dollar bill," Reid said. "He has to be realist in understanding that we squeezed all the juice out of this that we can … there are millions of children that are still not going to be covered under this."

But while Reid was resolute there would be "no compromise," he did seem open the door today to a little political parsing. No compromise, he maintained, but if President Bush wants to "tweak" the bill a little bit so "he can say he got (Democrats) to capitulate…" that, Reid implied, might be okay, though he said he didn’t know how all the 10 million children could be covered for less than a $35 billion extension.

Reid did not get into specifics, but he pointed in the direction of a claim by the White House that the President can grant waivers to state caps on who qualifies for SCHIP programs. The Bush administration denied a request by New York to use the program for children whose parents make up to 400 percent of the poverty level – $83,000 for a family of four — but the administration has pointed to the hypothetical possibility that a future president could grant such a waiver as a reason to veto the program.

If the President wanted to enshrine a ban on such waivers into the bill, Reid implied it could be done.

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