Senate sets up second SCHIP veto

A bipartisan group of senators failed to reach a deal on controversial legislation expanding a children’s health insurance program, setting the stage for President Bush to veto the measure for a second time this fall.
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House Republicans and senators from both parties believed a deal was at hand on Thursday to amend a House-passed version of a bill that expands the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.) rebuffed Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump MORE’s (D-Nev.) request to give the negotiators more time, forcing a vote on the House-approved bill. The measure was approved 64-30.

Senators pushing for a compromise vowed to continue their work, and Reid said he would ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to not attempt to override Bush’s promised veto. On the Senate floor, he said House Republicans had advised him a veto override attempt would not be the best course of action on a sensitive issue both parties have tried to use for political gain over the past few weeks.

Some House Democrats attacked the Senate GOP leaders for forcing the vote.

“It’s ironic that the House wanted more time and the Senate Republicans wanted less,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said with a hint of sarcasm. “Three different positions in three weeks leads me to guess that there was one goal here: try to kill the bill.”

While some Senate Republicans, most notably Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (Iowa) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify MORE (Utah), supported the Democratic-backed measure, Senate Republican leaders and President Bush worked to defeat it.

House Democrats had made small changes to the bill first vetoed by Bush in an effort to win more votes, but to little avail. Those changes prevented states from covering adults, capped income levels at which families could qualify for the program and tightened requirements so that undocumented workers would not be able to get health insurance.

Bush complained the bill had the same flaws as it had when he vetoed it the first time. He gave the measure an additional blow by asserting that he would veto any SCHIP bill, regardless of its content, if it included a tobacco tax meant to pay for the expanded coverage of 10 million children.

That move put Bush at odds with House Republicans, since virtually every member of the conference has supported an SCHIP bill that included a tobacco tax. It also opened Republicans up to Democratic attacks on the issue.

“Republicans claim they want to negotiate in good faith.  Now, we learn that President Bush and congressional Republicans are more worried about protecting the tobacco lobby than providing health insurance to American kids,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said.

A group of more than 40 centrist Republicans has voted for the legislation twice, despite the president’s opposition.

A second group of 38 Republicans indicated they would be willing to support the measure if some changes were made. That core group of House Republicans included Rep. Judy Biggert (Ill.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryHouse Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Nearly 40 percent of species worldwide face extinction — unless we reverse wildlife crisis MORE (Neb.), Randy Kuhl (N.Y.), Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtHouse advances B agriculture bill House advances B agriculture bill Dems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts MORE (Ala.) and Vernon Ehlers (Mich.).

House Republicans had been discussing a potential deal with Hatch, Grassley and Sens. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.) and Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) Thursday afternoon in a room in the basement of the Capitol, according to House Republican aides.

But their discussions, which had been ongoing for more than a week, ended abruptly when McConnell forced Reid to schedule a vote.

Reid walked over to the House side of the Capitol and encouraged the lawmakers to keep meeting, promising that if they reached an agreement he would bring the third version of the bill up for a vote, lawmakers in the room said.

“We were well over 50 percent of the way there,” Biggert said. “I thought we could finish [Thursday].”

“I believe that a compromise is within reach. [Given] a little more time, Congress could pass a SCHIP bill that could achieve the support of more than two-thirds of both houses of Congress,” Baucus said on the Senate floor on Thursday. “Unfortunately, today some objected to giving us that time.  I regret that.”

Biggert said the group was “not negotiating, but having discussions,” and added that she kept Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE (R-Ohio) and GOP Whip Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (Mo.) abreast of the discussions. It is unclear how many of her colleagues Biggert could have delivered if a deal was struck. 

Despite efforts to reach a deal, political attacks have not let up.

Several liberal pressure groups, including Americans United for Change and AFSCME, are running up to $2.5 million in advertisements against Reps. Kuhl, Steve Chabot (Ohio), Joe Knollenberg (Mich.), Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannKlobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' MORE (Minn.), Ric Keller (Fla.) and Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties Acting FAA chief defends agency's Boeing 737 Max safety certification Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (Mo.).

Manu Raju and Jeffrey Young contributed to this article.