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"How many children will be dead" if Democrats don't stop using S-CHIP as a political football?

December 12, 2007

We all remember the rhetoric surrounding President Bush's first veto of the Democrats' bloated S-CHIP bill this fall.

"[H]ow many children will be dead" if this measure doesn't pass? asked Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett on the floor of the House. "President Bush used his cruel veto pen to say 'I forbid 10 million children from getting the health benefits they deserve'," said America's Mother-in-Law, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Republican votes against SCHIP expansion and the President's veto showed "a stunning lack of compassion for some of the most vulnerable members of our society."

And, of course, the venerable Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)said on the floor of the House that "the Axis of Evil isn't just in the Middle East, it's just down here on Pennsylvania Avenue" and that the President wanted to save the money being spent on SCHIP in order "to spend it to blow up innocent people." He also added his opinion (immediately praised by bloggers at DailyKos) that President Bush was sending American boys "to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."

It sounds like this legislation -- and the massive expansion of children's health care (well, children 25 and under) that it authorizes -- is pretty important to the Democrats, doesn't it?

Or not. In reality, the Democrats are simply fighting for the ability to keep doing what they've been doing this whole time: using the idea of "better health care for the kids" as a political football -- something that was reinforced in spades today.

You see, Congress -- only minutes ago -- received the President's latest SCHIP veto. Under House rules, the Democrat leadership now has two options, and must act on one or the other immediately. First, they can vote now to over-ride/sustain the President's veto; second, they can postpone that vote until a date certain.

Pelosi and Hoyer have chosen the latter, and the decision is now being debated on the House floor. The date they have chosen for this attempt at a veto override that will immediately save the lives of countless thousands of children? January 23, 2008 -- over a month from today (and, not coincidentally, only days before the President's State of the Union address).

All year the newly crowned Congressional leadership has, quite obviously, used the major issues of the day (Iraq, troop funding, health care, etc.) to score meaningless political points, rather than actually acting on things and making any real difference (other than that made by empty posturing and subsequent neglect).

This is, of course, nothing new. However, it's a pretty obvious (and pretty tiresome) game -- especially in the obnoxious way that the Democrats carry it out.

Take, for example, the comments of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SD) in a taped interview that will air on Bloomberg News tonight. He said, "The President is standing in the doorway of doctor's offices and hospitals across America and preventing children from getting the health care they need."

Nice try, Mr. Clyburn (and Messrs. Hoyer, Doggett, Stark, and Ms. Pelosi). By delaying this vote over a full month, or until such a time as it can make the maximum political statement, rather than (a) rendering the quickest (and, if your words are true, most lifesaving) verdict or (b) crafting a bill that the President can actually sign, you have demonstrated that it is you who are "standing in the doorway" of a conclusion to this affair -- and, if lives are really on the line in this SCHIP debate, then you are quite culpable indeed for those that may be lost.

Update: Here's what Reps. Boehner and Blunt had to say in a statement released this evening:
“The Majority consistently tells us that this Congress is focused on ‘the children.’ But their decision to delay this veto override vote is just more proof that what this Congress really is focused on is politics. By delaying the vote to override the President’s veto of their flawed bill to expand SCHIP to cover adults, illegal immigrants, and those who already have private health insurance, the Majority has proven once again that they have no intention of renewing this program in a responsible, bipartisan way. That the Majority has turned this important issue into a cynical, political football is beyond disappointing, but after a year marked by non-stop partisan politics on Capitol Hill, it’s not at all surprising.”
Very well put.

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