President Bush on Thursday threatened to veto legislation that would provide health insurance for an additional 4 million children currently without coverage. "What a disgrace," Senator Bernie Sanders said of the president's veto threat. About 6.6 million kids nationwide, and some 3,000 in Vermont, are now covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program. The law that created the program is about to expire. As Senate and House negotiators neared agreement on legislation to extend the program, Bush summoned reporters to a White House press conference to figuratively flash his veto pen.
The emerging agreement on Capitol Hill is similar to a bill that the Senate last month passed on a roll call vote of 68-to-31, a big enough margin, thanks to significant Republican support, to override a veto. Under the deal's broad outlines, $60 billion would be allotted over five years for children's health coverage.
"It's a disgrace that in the richest nation on the planet, more than nine million children are uninsured. Instead of providing health insurance for all children, Bush wants to take coverage away from more than 2,000 kids in Vermont and more than 4 million nationwide. If Bush wants a fight, so be it. If he wants to take sides with private insurance companies instead of children, so be it. This is a fight we can win and must win."
The Vermont congressional delegation was united.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy said, "The Bush administration's priorities are way off the tracks, and their plans would hurt children and families in Vermont and across the country. Few issues crystallize their warped priorities more clearly than the contrast of this threat to veto heath insurance for children at the very moment the White House is asking for more than $100 billion more for the war in Iraq. This veto threat flies in the face of Congress's bipartisan work to pass a carefully crafted plan to cover more uninsured children. It is sad that basic health care for children is even an issue in the richest nation on earth. I hope the president will reconsider before it's too late for those who his veto would hurt the most."
Representative Peter Welch said, "President Bush continues to demonstrate morally misguided and completely out of touch priorities in his disregard for the health care of America's children. The president likes to refer to himself as "The Decider." This is clearly the wrong decision for the health of our children, wrong for working families, and wrong for the states. I urge Republican members of Congress to finally stand up to this president on behalf of the well-being of our kids."