Not the Right Fight

I get a lot of e-mails these days about Republicans fighting for earmark reform and how the Democrats are not doing enough to curb pet projects, et cetera — something GOPers simply didn't have the time to take care of when they were in power for 12 years. They have wisely decided earmark reform is a better subject for press releases than President Bush's upcoming veto on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill that passed the House yesterday. I guess standing between insurance for poor children and Bush is about as appealing as defending the Iraq war day in and day out.

By the way, Bush may be right that increasing the program by $35 billion over five years costs too much and that it is a first step towards government-run healthcare. It would be nice if you could fight for principles in Washington, but that is growing increasingly difficult these days and for someone in Bush's position, well, that's a luxury he can no longer afford. And sure, he is trying to fire the base back up, that body of conservatives whose concerns he once nurtured but who now find his spending record and other lapses atrocious. Will this effort at fiscal constraint make Republicans so giddy that in spite of all the other political failures now associated with the GOP they will actually remember it next year? What if it backfires and Bush simply ends up putting his party into yet another dark, airless box for the Democrats to kick down the campaign trail next fall?

The AARP, America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association and a bipartisan group of governors are backing the plan, which will bring the number of covered children from 6.6 million up to 10 million by raising the tobacco tax by 61 cents. Can you see the commercials now? It doesn't require much imagination.

Retiring Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who has spoken his mind throughout his entire 12 years in Congress, said, "I'm a little baffled as to why the Bush people picked this issue to fight it out on ... It's very sensitive. It's about kids. Who is against kids' healthcare?" And in Dana Milbank's Washington Post column Tuesday he noted that even an SCHIP bill opponent, Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, had trouble finding the right argument against it on the House floor. "The most that can be said for it is that it does have money in it for the children of America," Barton said. And as Milbank noted, "it was not clear why he thought this helped his case."


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