Child health program blasted by Bush

By Catherine Dodge

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush said a plan by Congress to expand a children’s health insurance program is “irresponsible” and chided lawmakers for failing to pass spending laws to fund government.

“Congressional leaders have put forward an irresponsible plan that would dramatically expand this program beyond its original intent,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “They know I will veto it.”

Bush also signed today a stopgap spending measure that continues funding federal agencies, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other programs at current levels until Nov. 16, buying time for lawmakers to act on regular spending bills.

Congress this week sent Bush legislation supported by Democrats and many of his fellow Republicans that would more than double the funds for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as Schip. The measure would add $35 billion over five years to the $25 billion program. To pay for the expansion, the federal tobacco tax would be raised to $1 a pack of cigarettes from the current 39 cents.

Democrats enlisted a 12-year-old boy who received life- saving care through U.S.-subsidized health insurance to deliver their response to Bush’s radio address today. Supporters of the measure say it is needed to add about 3.8 million needy children to the 6 million now covered.

Political Advantage

Bush has said he would veto the legislation because it would provide subsidized health care to middle-class children whose families can afford private insurance. Democrats see political advantage in Bush’s veto vow.

The president criticized the Democratic-controlled Congress for failing to pass any of 12 spending bills to fund government operations in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1.

“Congress failed in its most basic responsibility,” Bush said.

The Republican-controlled Congress last year also had to send Bush a stopgap measure after failing to complete work on spending legislation.

Since 1977, Congress has only three times approved all its spending measures by the Sept. 30 deadline, according to the Concord Coalition, a Washington-based research group.