Reporting on House passage of SCHIP proposal, KOAA again noted Republican criticism but not bipartisan support


On September 26, Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA News First reported on the House of Representatives' approval of a measure to expand a health insurance program for low-income children. The segment noted the opposition of President Bush and others to the bill but did not mention that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated Bush's alternative proposal would underfund the program. It also did not include a response by supporters of the bill.

Following a September 25 report about President Bush's threat to veto the congressional expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that omitted key information, the September 26 broadcast of Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA's News First Today at 5 a.m. again failed to report that Bush's alternative proposal would underfund the SCHIP program by approximately $9 billion over a five-year period, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate. Additionally, while anchor Adam Atchison reported that "GOP leaders say" that the House-approved proposal "would cost more than what's allocated for, and it does not solve the problem," the report contained no response to such an assessment or any mention of bipartisan criticism of Bush's alternative proposal.

Atchison reported on H.R. 976, which the House of Representatives passed on September 25 by a vote of 265-159. As Congressional Quarterly reported, the Senate is expected to approve the bill as early as September 27.

From the September 26 broadcast of KOAA's News First Today at 5 a.m.:

ATCHISON: Last night House lawmakers in Washington approved to expand the government's children's health insurance program. But it's not quite a done deal. Supporters are still two dozen votes shy of what they would need to override the veto that President Bush has promised. However, the president's not the only one to disagree with the bill. GOP leaders say it would cost more than what's allocated for, and it does not solve the problem.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R-TX) [video clip]: If this passes, in the years to come they won't wait minutes or hours to see a doctor of their choice; they will wait weeks and months to see a doctor chosen by a government bureaucrat.

ATCHISON: The measure would more than double government spending for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, as it's called. That would happen over the next five years.

As Colorado Media Matters previously noted, Bush's SCHIP proposal would sharply underfund the program, according to the CBO. Per the funding levels set in the original SCHIP legislation, the program cost the federal government $5 billion in 2007. If this baseline level were preserved over the next five years, to 2012, SCHIP would receive $25 billion. In his fiscal year 2008 budget request released in February, Bush sought an increase of $5 billion over this period, for a total of $30 billion in funding. In May, the CBO estimated that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period" -- meaning Bush's proposal would leave the program with a $9 billion shortfall over those five years.

As Media Matters for America has noted, numerous Republicans have also criticized the smaller increase the Bush administration has proposed. According to a September 21 Washington Post article:

Republicans reacted angrily yesterday to President Bush's promise to veto a bill that would renew and expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, raising the likelihood of significant GOP defections when the package comes to a vote next week.

"I'm disappointed by the president's comments," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who urged Bush, in an early-morning telephone conversation yesterday, to support the emerging bipartisan compromise. "Drawing lines in the sand at this stage isn't constructive. ... I wish he would engage Congress in a bill that he could sign instead of threatening a veto."

"I'm very, very disappointed," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). "I'm going to be voting for it."

Further, on August 2, the Senate bill to increase funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years passed by a vote of 68-31, with 17 Republicans voting in favor. Forty-five Republicans voted in favor of the House's similar version of the bill.

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