On the October 3 edition of CNN Newsroom, during a report on President Bush's veto of a bill that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, co-host Kyra Phillips asked CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry, "[T]he president back in 2004 -- in his Republican Convention speech -- didn't he declare that SCHIP was a great program and he promised to expand it? Now, he's backpedaling. I mean, what's going on?" Henry responded: "[I]n the 2004 campaign, the president made clear that he liked SCHIP, and he promised that if he was re-elected, he would expand it. And the White House notes that the president is on record right now in saying he wants to expand it by only $5 billion, though, whereas the Democratic plan would be $35 billion. And so that's where the rubber meets the road." Henry did not point out that the Bush proposal to "expand" SCHIP by $5 billion over five years would underfund the program by $9 billion during that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As Media Matters for America has documented, in May, the CBO estimated that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period." But a $5 billion increase from baseline funding -- Bush's proposal -- over five years would total $30 billion.
Henry concluded: "[I]t's very likely this ends up being somewhere in the middle, but I think much closer to 35 billion than 5 billion, because it's going to be very difficult for the president to make the case to the American people that he doesn't want to expand this as much as the Democrats do."
From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the October 3 edition of CNN Newsroom:
T.J. HOLMES (co-host): It is a risk few politicians would take: going on record against expanded health insurance for children, but President Bush did just that this morning. He vetoed a $35 billion bill that he says amounted to a big step toward socialized medicine. The SCHIP program benefits families that earn too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The Senate has enough votes to override the veto but the measure cleared the House with less than two-thirds veto-proof majority.
PHILLIPS: So, right after his veto, Mr. Bush headed to Pennsylvania to talk more about federal spending. He said the health insurance bill went far beyond the low-income kids that the program was meant to help.
BUSH [video clip]: So, I wanted to share with you why I vetoed the bill this morning: Poor kids first. Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system. I do want Republicans and Democrats to come together to support a bill that focuses on the poorer children. I am more than willing to work with members of both parties from both houses.
PHILLIPS: Well, Democrats say that the president's fiscal responsibility argument is a smoke screen. One House member said that the insurance program's price can't compare to the cost of other White House priorities.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL) [video clip]: The president is refusing to spend $7 billion a year on children's health while insisting on $10 billion a month in Iraq. The president and Republicans in Congress say that we can't afford this bill but where were the fiscal conservatives when the president demanded hundreds of billions of dollars for the war in Iraq?
PHILLIPS: So, what's really going on here? Is the president really against insurance for poor kids? Are free-spending Democrats trying to break the bank? Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.
Ed, a lot of Americans seem to be in favor of health care for kids -- expanding this program. I mean, take a look at the Washington Post/ABC poll that I was talking to you about this morning: 72 percent of Americans in favor of increasing money for children's health insurance. So, why is the president opposed?
HENRY: This comes down to one thing, Kyra, and that is the fact President Bush -- the Republican Party in general -- they're extremely nervous that they have lost their brand of fiscal conservatism. That when Republicans were running the Hill, with a Republican president here behind me, that they let too -- through far too many spending bills that were bloated with all kinds of pork barrel projects and everything else, and so they are finally trying to hold the line on federal spending.
The political problem, of course, is the fact that you have Democrats now saying, "Wait, you're going to draw a line in the sand after all this debt that's piled up. You're going to draw a line in the sand on children's health," and that's why this is so politically radioactive -- that while the president, on one hand, is trying to restore the Republican Party brand on holding the line on federal spending, he's doing it on a program that is very, very popular. That could backfire on his party next year. He's not on the ballot, but the House and Senate members are, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, Ed, what about also, the president back in 2004 -- in his Republican Convention speech -- didn't he declare that SCHIP was a great program and he promised to expand it? Now, he's backpedaling. I mean, what's going on?
HENRY: Well, in the -- you're right -- in the 2004 campaign, the president made clear that he liked SCHIP, and he promised that if he was re-elected, he would expand it. And the White House notes that the president is on record right now in saying he wants to expand it by only $5 billion, though, whereas the Democratic plan would be $35 billion. And so, that's where the rubber meets the road.
I think you also heard in the president's remarks there that he's clearly signaling he's ready to deal with the Democratic Congress. He's clearly going to have to come up from the $5 billion, but he doesn't want it to be 35. So, it's very likely this ends up being somewhere in the middle, but I think much closer to 35 billion than 5 billion, because it's going to be very difficult for the president to make the case to the American people that he doesn't want to expand this as much as the Democrats do, Kyra.