Scenic photo of Dismals Canyon

Working to Save SCHIP for Children

October 18, 2007
In The News


WASHINGTON, D.C. – You’re probably aware that Congress and the President are currently locked in a political debate regarding the future of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program or SCHIP. This has been one of the uglier fights I’ve seen since I was first elected to Congress; in large measure because Congress and the President have both lost sight of what is important in this debate: the future of health insurance for needy children.

That’s why I’ve sponsored a resolution to bring the SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (H.R. 3584) to the floor for an up or down vote. This bill extends and increases funding for the existing SCHIP. I believe that if it saw the light of day it would pass easily and be signed into law by the President.

What was once a simple, good government program providing poor children with needed health care has become a political boondoggle aimed solely at the 2008 elections.

While some groups mean well in their support of this legislation, other liberal interest groups such as Moveon.org would have you believe that I’m standing in the way of getting healthcare for children. What they fail to tell you is that in 1997 I voted to create this very program. I felt it was important to provide children with health care coverage they might otherwise not receive. It was the right thing to do then and it’s the right thing to do now.

But Moveon.org and some of their allies aren’t interested in telling you that. Or the fact that the liberal wing of the Democrat party has stopped all Republican efforts to improve the bill.

For example, the SCHIP bill President Bush vetoed would allow some families earning up to $83,000 to participate in this low-income program. I don’t know many Alabamians who would consider $83,000 to be “low-income.” In fact, as originally envisioned the program would cover children from families near the federal poverty level. Today that’s $21,000 for a family of four. That’s a big change that isn’t being mentioned.

Also, there is concern that this bill extends benefits to “children” up to 21 years of age. This is a problem because right now not all eligible children are being covered. What happened to taking care of the needy children first? Congress established goals in 1997 that aren’t being met. There are still children near the federal poverty level without health insurance. Why are we expanding the program beyond needy children before they are covered?

Many are also concerned that the bill gives away health insurance to illegal immigrants to the tune of $6.5 billion. I haven’t had a single Alabamian tell me that they think that’s a good idea. Today American families are fighting rising gas costs, higher mortgage rates and facing their own struggles to find affordable health insurance. Washington doesn’t need to give away billions of dollars to illegal immigrants when there are other priorities for legal citizens that need to be addressed. I can’t vote for this program in the current form that gives away your tax dollars to people who are here illegally.

Finally, to fund this health care program for single adults, illegal immigrants and needy children, Congress is seeking to raise taxes on cigarettes. While I don’t endorse smoking, it appears smokers are being unfairly targeted as the sole revenue source to pay for this massive expansion of government healthcare. In order to sustain the required level of funding, we’re going to have to find a new generation of smokers to pay this tax. In fact, we need 22 million Americans to start smoking to meet funding expectations under the vetoed bill. Failing that Congress is going to be faced with the choice of cutting coverage for needy children or once again raising taxes on American families. Neither of these options is acceptable.

President Bush vetoed this $30 billion dollar expansion on October 3 and sent it back to Congress for further consideration. Instead of acting responsibly and seeking a compromise that would serve children, House and Senate leaders and their liberal attack dogs decided that they would wait two weeks to even begin discussing SCHIP. What are they doing with those two weeks you might ask? The answer is setting up the 2008 elections by spending $1.25 million in an attempt to get Republicans such as myself to support tax increases, health insurance for illegal immigrants and the start of a state-run health care system. They would have been better served spending that time to figure out what really matters.

I can tell you in this case it’s not the 2008 elections. It’s not Moveon.org. It’s the truly needy children of this nation and their access to healthcare.