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Ms. HIRONO. Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 2, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2009.
I believe our Nation must show true compassion for the most vulnerable among us, and CHIP is a program that helps millions of low-income American children to receive health care so they can grow up in good health.
Since its creation in 1997, CHIP has been successful in providing vital health care coverage for children in families who cannot afford private insurance yet earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. There are now 6.6 million children enrolled in the program, which includes 20,000 keiki (children) from my home State of Hawaii.
Regrettably twice in 110th Congress, President George W. Bush vetoed bipartisan bills that would have reauthorized and improved CHIP in order to provide secure health coverage for millions of uninsured children in working families. These vetoes were made despite the fact that the bills had passed in both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities. As a result of these vetoes, Congress was only able to provide a short-term extension of CHIP, through March of 2009, but was not able to enact program improvements to help States reach additional uninsured children.
The bill before us today is based on the two previously vetoed bipartisan bills. It also offers the 111th Congress the opportunity to right the wrongs of the out-going administration. President-elect Obama has previously expressed strong support for CHIP because it provides a much-needed down-payment on children's health. By extending health coverage to millions more children, this legislation is an important first step in stemming the rising tide of the uninsured.
I urge my colleagues to join me and vote in support of this bill and of the health and well-being of children most in need of our help.
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