What Part of Compromise Does Congress Not Get?
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and a handful of other Members met this morning with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to discuss solutions for the politically stalled State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill. This follows a House vote on a retread bill presented by Democrat Leadership that significantly weakens existing Medicaid law in regard to illegal immigrants.
Following the meeting, Aderholt called on both parties in Congress to begin negotiations on a bill that can realistically become law.
“It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to come together and pass SCHIP reauthorization to help needy children. Congress needs to quit seeking political points and do the right thing for the needy children of this nation,” said Congressman Aderholt. “I don’t understand what part of ‘compromise’ Congress doesn’t get. The bill offered on the House floor today was just another political gimmick aimed at elections that are still over a year away.”
H.R. 3963, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, follows on the heels of a previous bill vetoed by President Bush that was upheld by the House of Representatives. Congressman Aderholt supported the original SCHIP legislation when the program was created in 1997 and strongly supports SCHIP today. However, he continues to hear objections by Alabamians that are opposed to provisions in the legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive coverage and for families making up to $83,000 to qualify as well.
Last week, Congressman Aderholt joined 37 of his Republican colleagues in sending a letter to President Bush urging him to negotiate with Democrats. The letter also provided a framework for negotiations by outlining general principles for discussion. Today, he and several of his colleagues also sent a similar letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this afternoon.
Aderholt continued, “The bill on the floor today made superficial changes to what has already been voted on, vetoed, and upheld by the House. Instead of bringing both sides closer and trying to find a real solution, it pushes them further apart by weakening existing law and making it easier for illegal immigrants to receive health care benefits under Medicaid. That does nothing for the nation’s uninsured, needy children.”
H.R. 3963 passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 265 to 142. Among the provisions in the bill it would allow states to define income (i.e. “income disregards”) in such a way as to allow SCHIP coverage above 300% of federal poverty; phase childless adults off of SCHIP within a year but allow roughly 700,000 parents to remain on the rolls at least through 2012; weaken the current citizenship documentation requirements, enacted in the Deficit Reduction Act, to make it easier for illegal immigrants to access Medicaid and SCHIP; and, repeal current policy designed to ensure that states prioritize coverage of children below 200% of federal poverty.
Congressman Aderholt continues to press for consideration of a resolution he has introduced that would bring true compromise SCHIP legislation to the House Floor immediately. The SCHIP Extension Act was introduced by Representative Barton on September 19, 2007. It maintains current law and increases SCHIP funding levels for 18 months. In Fiscal Year 2008 it provides for $6.5 billion in funding and $3.6 billion for the first 6 months of Fiscal Year 2009. These figures represent a $1.5 billion and $1.1 billion increase respectively over current law. These funds are in addition to the states’ roll-over amounts. By guaranteeing current funding levels, and even increasing funding, the program remains secure while the political debate continues in Washington.
According to estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the funding increases in the SCHIP Extension Act will ensure that no State would have to reduce their SCHIP benefits package or change their current SCHIP eligibility standards due to a lack of Federal funding. Stated simply, this bill fully funds SCHIP for the entire 18-month period and actually increases total Federal SCHIP funding by more than 33% over current levels.
“This Congress needs to quit playing games. Today is another example of Congress spinning its wheels and accomplishing nothing. President Bush will veto this bill and we’ll be right where we started,” concluded Congressman Aderholt. “You can only push the same thing so many times before you’re forced to try something new. It’s time to try something new: compromise.”