S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Cornyn of Texas amendment on limiting the availability of funding for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 91 Mar 22, 2007
This vote occurred on an amendment by John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would have had the effect of limiting the availability of State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funding for certain states. The federal SCHIP program -- funded primarily through taxes on tobacco products -- helps low income families with children afford health insurance, and currently covers about 6 million kids.
The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Cornyn's amendment would have limited the availability of SCHIP funds to states that allow coverage under SCHIP for families whose annual incomes exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- which amounts to an annual income of $27,380 for a single parent or $41,300 for a family of four. It also would have limited the availability of SCHIP funding to states that allow coverage under SCHIP for adults with very low incomes.
In supporting the amendment, Cornyn argued that the SCHIP program has limited funds, and that the neediest kids should receive priority in funding. "This is about helping low-income kids first," Cornyn said. He also argued that the program should cover only kids, not needy adults who are childless.
But more broadly, small government Republicans have repeatedly sought to place more limits on the SCHIP program, believing that it is on the verge of becoming another federal health care entitlement program, such as Social Security or Medicare.
"[SCHIP] is being used as a smokescreen to dramatically expand the amount of money we spend as a federal government on health care," said Judd Gregg, R-N.H., referring to SCHIP as part of the "nationalization effort in health care."
"What the Senator from Texas is proposing is to do exactly that, make sure this program is directed at children. However, we have seen state after state and some of our biggest states use this program for adults and for families up to $68,000 of income. That is not about low-income kids being taken care of. That is about trying to nationalize the health care system," Gregg said.
Democrats such as Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, which is one of the states that allows very poor adults and families making more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line to be covered under SCHIP, argued that Congress should be spending its time finding ways to cover more people, not less.
"The whole point of SCHIP is to say to those who are working: If you are working hard and in a low-income job, you should be able to know you can receive health insurance for your children. If you are working hard, you don't have to go to bed at night saying: Please God, don't let the kids get sick--which is what happens every single night in America," Stabenow said.
Stabenow -- and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. -- also said the budget resolution simply isn't the right place to put such a proposal.
"Frankly, I have some sympathy for the argument advanced by the Senator from Texas. But whatever the merits of the Cornyn amendment, there is a very serious problem with the Cornyn amendment that leads me to oppose it, and I ask colleagues to oppose it. That is, this isn't the place for the Cornyn amendment," Conrad said. "The simple fact is, the budget resolution does not determine the policy on SCHIP. It has nothing to do with the policy on SCHIP--nothing, zero."
Democrats were united in opposing the amendment, which was defeated 38-59. Of the 59 voting yes, 10 were Republicans. Thus, the budget resolution went forward without language that would have limited SCHIP funding for some states that allow expanded coverage.
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