Friday, October 19, 2007

Attempt to Overturn SCHIP Veto Goes Up In Smoke

President Bush's veto stands. After a long and acrimonious war of words the results are now in. Williams Neikirk, a senior correspondent for The Chicago Tribune recounts the closing round of the current congressional battle:

The measure fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds requirement to override the veto. The vote was 273-156, as 54 Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the bill, compared with 53 GOP members who voted for the bill when it first passed. Only two Democrats voted to sustain the veto compared with six who voted against the bill originally....

The bill killed Thursday would have cost an additional $35 billion over the next five years and made children's health-care insurance available to more middle-class families. The expansion would have been financed with a 61-cent-a-pack increase in the federal tobacco tax, raising the levy to $1 a pack.

John Godfrey of Dow Jones Newswire gives us some specifics about the tax on CNNMoney:

Companies that would have been affected include R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. (RAI); Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria Group (MO); and Carolina Group (CG), which is a unit of Loews Corp. (LTR).

The $35 billion raised by the tobacco tax increase over five years would have offset the cost of expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill's supporters said that by 2012, the expansion would have allowed the program to cover nearly 10 million children.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., already has promised to have the same bill back on Bush's desk within two weeks. Asked whether the bill might include an alternative funding source, Pelosi said simply, "no."

Smoking and health, two subjects often found intertwined. It is interesting to note how little this aspect of the legislation has been touched upon over the last few weeks of constant media coverage. To some it is not only a very relevant concern, but also an emotionally charged issue.

Take the following excerpt from a letter to the Yale Daily News by Jose Abrego, a student in the Ezra Stiles College, as an example:

Consider the ramifications of raising the tax on tobacco by such a ridiculous rate. Nearly all of the tobacco farmers in my province in the Dominican Republic would have their contracts frozen. The same goes for other countries in Latin America.

What worries me about this whole issue is that the tax increase guaranteed that hundreds of thousands of farmers across Latin America would suddenly find themselves unemployed. For Third World nations that are already neck-deep in a sea of poverty, this bill promised to drown them outright. Why didn't any of the major news networks report on the number of jobs that Bush saved in Latin America? Or the number of children that will continue to eat because their parents are employed? Isn't the media's job to present the news to us impartially - or at least pretend to do so?

SOURCE: "House Fails to Foil Health-Care Veto: Defiant Democrats Vow Revised Bill" 10/19/07
SOURCE: "House Failure to Override Veto Good News for Tobacco" 10/18/07
SOURCE: "Letter: Media Ignores Benefits of Health Care Veto" 10/18/07
photo courtesy of SuperFantastic on Flickr, used under this Creative Commons license


  1. The concerns of poor people who depend on the tobacco industry to support their own families is legitimate. It's easy to be idealistic when you're well-to-do in a well-to-do country. But it's not so easy when you're struggling to survive.

    But some Americans are struggling to survive as well. According to the World Almanac and a study by the United Nations, America has the highest infant mortality rate and the lowest average life span of any nation in the industrialized world. Something is wrong. Children are not getting the health care they need. If the current administration wants them to get that care through private insurers, then they can subsidize those insurers, control rates, or cut taxes so that people can afford it.

    I personally am close to two families who can't afford health care for their kids. One of those families spends money irresponsibly; the other is fiscally conservative. But in both families, the kids suffer. Personally, I don't have a perfect solution for where the money for children's health care should come from. But I do very strongly believe the children should get it. For more opinions, see

  2. Thank you for the well thought out comment.

    as you pointed out with your two examples, it is a complex subject and not always an intuitive one. Comments such as yours add a lot to the discourse, please continue to make more of them here and elsewhere.

    Thanks for reading!


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