Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday said if taxpayer-funded health insurance was good enough for the children of President Bush and members of Congress, it should be good enough for low-income children needing health care.
Sebelius, who is chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association, and other Democratic supporters of the State Children's Health Insurance Program participated in a telephone news conference, urging Congress to override Bush's veto of a funding increase for the program.
SCHIP provides low-cost health coverage to the children of families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don't earn enough to purchase private insurance. The program covers 6.6 million children nationally, including 35,000 in Kansas.
In a bipartisan vote, Congress approved a $35 billion increase in SCHIP over five years, funded by an increase in the cigarette tax. That would add about 4 million children to the program.
But Bush vetoed the measure, saying the funding increase was a step toward socialized medicine and would entice some with private coverage to switch to government-financed plans.
Sebelius said Bush's objection was "mystifying."
She said many public officials, including herself and members of Congress, governors and the president, have benefited from taxpayer-subsidized health care coverage for themselves and their children when they are minors.
"If it's good enough for our kids and congressional kids and I think the president's kids, hopefully it should be good for the low-income children of America who are desperate for this preventive care," Sebelius said.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, who participated in the news conference, said it was "astounding to me" that Bush would veto the bill the same week he asked for nearly $200 billion to continue the war in Iraq.
"We have got to get our priorities straight," she said.
To overturn Bush's veto would require a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House. While the SCHIP proposal passed the Senate with more than two-thirds support, it would require about 15 more votes in the House to reach that margin.
Democrats said they would try to lure more Republicans to vote to override.
Of Kansas' congressional delegation, Republicans U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran of Hays voted for the bill and said they would vote to override Bush's veto. U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, voted against the bill. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas who is running for president, didn't vote on the bill but voted against an earlier version.
Both Democrats in the House - Dennis Moore of Lenexa and Nancy Boyda of Topeka - support the bill and have said they will vote to override the veto.
House leaders have scheduled an override attempt on Oct. 18. While the battle continues, Congress adopted a resolution that keeps SCHIP funded through mid-November.