A high-stakes political confrontation is now under way over SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The exploding partisan confrontation marks the end game of the eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush. It will feature a lot of partisan charges, serious distortions of the truth, and political fireworks intertwined with the 2008 election process.
SCHIP is a federal-state grant program enacted in 1997. Its purpose is to pay for health care for children from working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Its ten-year authorization expires Oct. 30. On Sept. 28 President Bush vetoed the sharply expanded reauthorization bill sent to him by the Democratic Congress. Congress will vote on overriding the veto sometime this month.
Already the state's liberal voices are in full-throated attack mode. The three-man Congressional delegation issued a statement accusing Bush of lusting for war in Iraq, but oblivious to struggling working families here at home. Sen. Bernie Sanders is certain to tap his inexhaustible supply of outrage to denounce the heartless monster in the oval office.
Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, whose administration needs federal money to slow down the coming shortfalls in Vermont's health care programs, says he urged the President to sign the bill. Douglas says he hopes that a legislative solution can be found, but if not, he would entertain the idea of having Vermont join in yet another political lawsuit.
The lawsuit would ask the courts to declare that the federal government, in sending billions of tax dollars to the states, cannot impose the cruel, mean-spirited requirement that benefits for families of four be given out only when their earnings are less than $53,000 a year.
The Democrats see the Bush veto as a wonderful opportunity to pound lumps on a Republican president they detest. This is especially attractive since the new fire-breathing liberal Congress has been embarrassingly unable to force an immediate abandonment of Iraq. Nor will it dare to enact an enormous carbon tax to fight what liberals have declared to be the Menace of Global Warming, or reinstate the Clinton gun control laws, or enact another universal taxpayer-supported Hillarycare health plan.