Democrats blew it on SCHIP vote

Congressional Democrats and their supporters spared no effort to blast Republicans who voted against expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program as putting politics ahead of sick kids. If only the Democrats could have resisted doing exactly the same thing.

The first SCHIP bill passed the House easily, but fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds needed to override President Bush's veto, which occurred as expected.

The Democrats responded by tweaking the bill a bit to address the major objections raised by opponents — that the expanded program would provide insurance to families making up to three times the federal poverty level, that childless adults would continue to be eligible in some states and that it would be too easy for illegal immigrants to sign up.

Then they blew it.

Despite the pleas of Republican colleagues who supported the measure and were struggling to sway opponents, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on pushing the revised bill to a vote on Thursday — while nine members were in California touring the devastation left by the wildfires there and before GOP allies had time to convince enough of their fellows to change their votes.

Republicans suggested debating the bill on Thursday but delaying the vote until Monday. Pelosi refused, saying a quick vote was necessary to allow the Senate to send the bill to Bush this week.

Predictably, the new bill sailed through as the first had — but not only did it not attract any new Republican votes, it lost two from the original tally. And the vote left Pelosi's Republican allies justifiably angry.

Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership made two key mistakes: They didn't make enough concessions to Republican concerns and they rammed the measure through, apparently more interested in scoring political points than in passing a bill to extend health coverage to nearly 4 million low-income children.

The Democratic leadership knows it has Bush in a bad spot on this and the vote likely will push him to veto a children's health care bill twice in a few weeks. That's exactly the kind of political wounds Pelosi and other partisans hoped to inflict by pushing this through.

So Pelosi winds up with another bill that will be vetoed, without the votes to override, and she may have poisoned the atmosphere on this issue to such an extent that it will be impossible to get the Republican votes she needs to get the bill enacted.

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a supporter of the bill, said, "Part of me thinks this is just a terrible mistake."

We couldn't agree more.

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