Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Politics of Kids' Health

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Politics of Kids' Health

Article excerpt

Children's issues will top the agenda on Capitol Hill this week, as Democrats try to override President Bush's veto of a popular child-health bill. It's a moment of political drama that could tip close congressional races next fall, as well as raise the profile of other bills dealing with children's health in the US and abroad. House Democrats call it "Bush versus the kids." They put off an override vote for 15 days after Mr. Bush's Oct. 3 veto of a bill to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) - that's about a day for every new GOP vote they need to prevail. Meanwhile, Democrats and outside groups are stepping up ad campaigns targeting 21 Republicans who voted against the bill. House majority leader Steny Hoyer calls the veto override attempt, expected Thursday, "a defining moment for this Congress." House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio calls the lead-up to the override vote "the most partisan political activity I have seen in this Congress all year." But Republicans are open to compromise, he says. "We think this is a compromise," responded Mr. Hoyer, appearing on "FOX News Sunday." House Democrats initially called for a $90 billion increase in the program. Bush proposed increasing funding for S-CHIP by $5 billion over the next five years. Congress settled on an increase of $35 billion to cover 10 million children, up from 6.6 million in fiscal year 2006. Should the House override fail, "We're going to go back and pass another bill," Hoyer said. "In the end, I think we're going to add 4 million children [to S-CHIP]." Despite the partisan saber-rattling, broad and bipartisan support exists in Congress for reauthorizing S-CHIP - and other programs aimed at improving healthoutcomes for children. "The issue of children transcends party and national boundaries. It's something people can agree upon," says Martin Rendon, vice president for public policy and advocacy for the US Fund for UNICEF, who is tracking legislation on children's health. In addition to S-CHIP, Democrats aim to move a child- focused agenda, including new legislation on product safety, education, and global health. Sponsors say the focus on children growing out of the S-CHIP debate will help all these bills. Last week, the US Coalition for Child Survival released a poll showing that 81 percent of Americans support the proposed US Commitment to Global Child Survival Act, even when told it would cost $7 per American per year to pay for it. The bill aims to strengthen the US government's role in reducing child mortality in the developing world by investments in "proven, cost-effective interventions," such as care for newborns, access to clean drinking water, immunization, and vitamin supplements. "We have several Republicans already on this bill, and we haven't even begun to go out and look for sponsors," says Rep. …

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