Throwing Away An 84% Advantage
Yesterday, in appearances on the weekend chat fests, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer said that they would keep trying to get something done on SCHIP once a Bush veto is sustained in the House by the GOP leadership. From a negotiation perspective, Pelosi may have just made it easier for House Republicans to sustain the override, now that they know they will be let off the hook for their vote against kids this week when the Democrats give them another opportunity later in the session to save face on the issue. This is an example of why the current Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are inept at power politics, at a time when Bush is sending a message that he wants a compromise, which in Bush speak means “I’m willing to give you another chance to do it my way.”
By very large margins the public supports the Democrats on this issue and soundly rejects the position taken by the House Republican leadership that "most people don't want government-run health insurance.” In a CBS News/NYT poll back in February, when given the choice between the current system and a single payer government-run system, by a 48%-37% margin more respondents favored government-run insurance. At a time when the GOP and the White House says they are only willing to extend coverage to all low income uninsured children, a staggering 84% of respondents wanted SCHIP expanded to cover all uninsured children, not just low and middle income children. And 67% were willing to pay more in taxes for SCHIP to cover all uninsured children. If two thirds of the public is willing to pay more in taxes to insure all children, and if Pelosi is signaling that the next effort will be aimed at covering the same number of kids as the vetoed version does, then why doesn’t Pelosi just come out now and tell the White House and House Republicans that she and Reid will be sending the same bill back to the White House, thereby telling those wavering GOP representatives that their vote against kids this week will be all for naught when the same bill comes up again to do them even more political damage?
The White House says Bush’s veto is all about saving $30 billion over five years, or $6 billion a year, This represents two weeks' cost of Bush's wars, which are routinely rubber-stamped by these GOP representatives. If the Democrats were smart, they would be linking the cost of the Iraq war and the blank check the GOP gives for this war to the unwillingness of these same GOP members to provide health care to the kids in their districts. Democrats should be telling those wavering House Republicans now that the commercials in their districts over the next month or so after the override effort will highlight the values and priorities of these House Republicans that put war and profiteering ahead of kids here at home in their districts.
And our Democratic presidential candidates should be talking this way as well.