House Ready To Retest Bush's Veto Clout

Thursday, October 25th 2007, 7:47 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House members are about to learn whether some nips and tucks to a children's health bill will be enough to secure a veto-proof margin against a White House that wants major surgery.

The House planned to vote Thursday on a modestly revised version of a bill that President Bush vetoed Oct. 3. Last week the House fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto, which had been prompted by Bush's objections to a major expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The bill's supporters now hope the revisions will attract the seven or more Republicans needed to change the outcome later this fall. GOP leaders urged their colleagues to resist, saying the changes are too minor to justify abandoning Bush on a high-profile issue.

As before, the bill would add would $35 billion over five years to the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The program, which now covers 6 million children, would enroll 4 million more. The increase would be paid for with a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes, which Bush opposes.

Under the revisions, the program would exclude families earning more than three times the federal poverty rate. Low-income childless adults, which some states cover, would be phased out in one year. And states would have to be more rigorous in checking the validity of applicants' Social Security numbers, an effort to exclude illegal immigrants.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says lawmakers have not justified the need for a $35 billion expansion to cover 10 million children.

Democrats and their GOP allies are targeting 38 House Republicans who voted to sustain Bush's veto and later outlined their concerns in a letter.

The revised bill ``addresses all the concerns that were expressed by our colleagues and by the president,'' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday night. ``This is a clarification of the legislation'' vetoed by Bush.

The 10-year-old health insurance program is designed for families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy medical coverage. The main targets are families earning no more than twice the federal poverty rate, or $41,300 for a family of four.

Pelosi rejected requests from some Republicans to postpone a vote to give GOP moderates more time to round up converts. Republicans also noted that several California lawmakers will be absent Thursday to review wildfire damage in their districts.

Democrats said Thursday's vote is important, but not the crucial test, because both parties agree the bill will easily receive a simple majority. If Bush vetoes the measure, after House and Senate passage, the showdown will occur when its supporters again seek the two-thirds House majority needed for an override.

A veto-proof margin in the Senate is considered assured.

On Oct. 18 the House voted 273-156 to override Bush's veto, 13 votes short of a two-thirds majority. Forty-four Republicans joined 229 Democrats in voting to override.