Local supporters of a bill that would expand the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program rallied on Thursday in support of a potential override of President George W. Bush’s veto of it. The bill mainly serves children of the working poor. In California, the program is known as Healthy Families, and is intended for low-income families who can’t afford to pay for healthcare but also earn too much money to get free coverage from Medicaid. “It’s a matter of children not being provided health care,” said Susan Shaberman, a MoveOn.org member and organizer of the event. “He is protecting private healthcare.”
Bush has said that those who are paying for private healthcare would abandon it in exchange for the free service. He was also quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “The policies of the government ought to be to help poor children and to focus on poor children, and the policies of the government ought to be to help people find private insurance, not federal coverage. And that’s where the philosophical divide comes in.”
Many in attendance noted that Bush has given the okay to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on what they call an “unwinnable civil war in Iraq” but can’t help the children in his own country. “He thinks the war is more important than his own people,” said Whitney Steinle, who along with another protestor, was holding a large canvas sign with “VETO” written on it with a red slash through it. Other signs read, “Healthcare not warfare” and “Billion$ for Iraq War. Veto for kid’s healthcare?”
Rep. Lois Capps said she was “disappointed but not surprised” to see Bush’s veto. “This shortsighted decision reflects the President’s stubborn insistence on playing partisan politics with our children’s health and well-being,” Capps said in a statement Thursday. “Over 70 percent of the American people agree with a majority of Congress that providing this vital health coverage for ten million of our children is a priority that should supersede partisan politics.”
Capps, a former nurse, said she will vote to overturn the veto and “continue working to protect this critical health care program for our neediest children.” The bill would provide $60 billion over five years to the program by boosting cigarette taxes.
Earlier this year, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted to take $1 million out of its General Fund to tack onto money received for the Children’s Health Initiative. Santa Barbara County has roughly 16,000 uninsured children, according to a 2005 study. At 14.1 percent, the county has the second highest rate of uninsured children in the state.
The Senate, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer both voting in favor, passed the bill with more than the two-thirds necessary to withstand a veto. The matter is now in the hands of the House of Representatives, who will be voting Oct. 18 to attempt to override the veto. It won’t be easy, however, as the House needs 25 more votes to override the veto. Despite it being a long shot, roughly 50 people showed to the event outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. “This is important,” Steinle said. “Acting in it is an important part. We’re making a note that we’re angry.”