The Truth, Mainly - 10/08/2007

Feeling Sorry For the Prez Again
by Leon Satterfield

Confession time: Last week I was feeling sorry for President Bush again.

"Why?" my alter ego asked. "He's probably going to get all the way through his second term without being impeached. And wouldn't that be a sign of a successful presidency? Granted, last week's Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the president's approval rating at 33 percent, equal to his career low in Post-ABC polls."

(But only 29 percent approved of the job the Democrat-controlled Congress was doing. So maybe those polled were just feeling cranky about both parties.)

But also last week, the House voted 377 to 46 to give the Bush administration just two months to present Congress with a plan for withdrawing our troops from Iraq.

That was good news, and there was some more:

On Sep. 27, the Senate gave final approval to a health insurance bill for 10 million children. The vote was 67-29 in favor. And get this: 18 of the 67 were members of the president's own party.

The bill, according to a story in the Sep. 28 NY Times, would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover "nearly four million uninsured children, in addition to the 6.6 million already enrolled. It would provide $60 billion over the next five years, $35 billion more than the president proposed."

But here's the bad news: President Bush said he was going to veto the bill because it would be a step toward "government-run health care for every American."

"Oh no!" my ironic inner self said. "Anything but government-run health care for every American. Who do we think we are? Europeans or what?"

And then the president did it. On Wednesday, he vetoed the bill that two thirds of the Senate had just passed. It was the same week he had said (on Oct. 1, Child Health Day) that "Our Nation is committed to the health and well-being of our youth….My Administration supports programs that give parents, mentors, and teachers the resources they need to help and encourage children to maintain an active and healthy way of life."

Lots of people are unhappy about the veto. A recent ABC-Washington Post survey showed 67 percent of the respondents called for Congress to cut the amount of money we're spending for the war, and 72 percent said Congress should increase the spending on children's health insurance.

Eighteen Republicans in the Senate don't agree with the president. Among them is Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas who said the president had shown "little if any willingness to come to the negotiation table."

And Sen. Charles Grassley (R. Iowa) said it was "intellectually dishonest" to argue, as some of his fellow GOP senators did, that the bill the president vetoed would be a step toward socialized medicine.

And I liked what Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, one of 45 House Republicans supporting the SCHIP expansion, had to say: "I don't have the time, the energy or the inclination to psychoanalyze the president's thought process."

A bit of history: The State Children's Health Insurance Program has been around since 1997 when it was proposed by Senators Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R. Utah). It's been supported by AARP, the American Medical Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, and governors of both parties.

The bill the president vetoed would have added "nearly four million uninsured children" to the 6.6 million already enrolled.

The House of Representatives approved the bill by a 265 to 159 vote on Sep. 25 with yes votes from 45 Republicans. But Rep. Roy Blunt (R. Mo.) said he was pretty sure the president's veto would be upheld.

That's because a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate is needed to override the president's veto.

Should the veto be overridden, the bill would require the states to provide dental services for the kids and to cover mental health services in some states.

And how to pay for such a program? Part of the bill would have been taken care of by increasing tobacco taxes, bumping them up from 39 cents per pack to a dollar per pack. And it might even have caused some smokers to cut back a bit.

To a tightwad former cigarette and pipe smoker with five grandchildren —I'll show you pictures—that sounded like a win-win solution.

But it all went down the drain when the president vetoed.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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