Leavitt sees room for compromise on SCHIP

WASHINGTON President Bush’s health secretary said Sunday that he does not expect Congress to override a veto on children’s insurance, according to the Associate Press.

Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt said the president will likely provide more than the $5 billion increase over five years that he first proposed, though the new number has not been disclosed as of yet.

Leavitt did say, however, that Bush would not back down despite Congress’ attempt to override his veto last week. Many Democrats refused to reduce their $35 million bid.

While an override requires a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, the House missed the two-thirds majority by about two-dozen votes. An override vote has been scheduled for Oct. 18.

The program provides health insurance to children in families with incomes too great for Medicaid eligibility but not enough to afford private insurance.

Bush and Leavitt have deprecated the spending increase (principally supported by Democrats) because they believe the proposal could be a stepping stone for the Liberal “goal of government-run health care for every American.”

Leavitt believes that the Democratic-controlled Congress would pay the political price if the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is deferred or stopped altogether because of a political stalemate. Congress has continued funding the program at its current level until mid-November as part of legislation keeping government agencies operating beyond Oct. 1, the start of the new budget year.

“I’m presuming the Democrats do in fact want the children’s insurance program to be reauthorized,” Leavitt said. “Once we agree on our priorities, then the proper number will arrive.”

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