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Public Statements

Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Madam President, the Senate is now considering what is essentially a do-over bill. The majority seems to believe that what didn't pass muster the first time and was vetoed by the President can now be successful. Well, it can't be, and my friends on the other side of the aisle know that.

The reason we have this do-over bill before us is because, I believe, this process has become more about scoring political points than making good policy. When the other Chamber passed this bill--and they rammed it through, in essentially 1 day--not only did they not pick up any votes, they actually lost one vote on the House side.

Then the majority in this body bypassed the committee process where both parties would have had a chance to strengthen the bill and brought it directly to the floor.

Last Friday, the majority filed cloture on the motion to proceed, forcing this vote today. It is the majority that wanted to vote on this do-over bill, not my side of the aisle.

The majority is also expected to fill the amendment tree to prevent Republican Senators from offering amendments and closing loopholes in the bill. All of that suggests to me that this is about politics, really, and not policy.

So the bill before us is almost like a sequel of the bill that was vetoed the last time. And like any sequel, it is even worse the second time around.

According to the Congressional Budget Office estimates, this bill actually covers 400,000 fewer children than the original SCHIP bill. Yet it costs more--a half billion dollars more.

Our friends on the other side argue that their do-over bill will serve low-income children first. But instead of requiring that low-income children be served first before expanding the program to cover those beyond 200 percent of the Federal poverty level, this bill expands the program to cover families making as much as 300 percent of the Federal poverty level.

This will repeal the requirement that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, just recently put in place that States cover 95 percent of low-income kids before they expand.

This bill also contains an ``income disregard loophole'' that would allow States to ignore thousands of dollars of income when determining SCHIP eligibility. States could essentially define a family's income at whatever level they see fit.

Democrats also argue this do-over bill will only serve children, not adults. Even that is not the case. While this legislation would phase childless adults out of the program within 1 year, parents would still be eligible.

Put it all together, and we have a bill born out of a process that is focused more on scoring political points than making good policy, and it is certainly not one I intend to support.

I urge my colleagues to re-engage in communication and consultation with this side of the aisle. Together, we can craft a bill that keeps its focus on low-income children and can actually receive a Presidential signature. That is the way to accomplish real results for the American people. We Republicans stand ready and willing to do just that.

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