WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of overriding the President’s veto of extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover an additional 4 million low-income children. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, let me respond to those who complain that we are even holding this override vote today.
“They point out that we have extended the children’s health insurance program until March 2009 – albeit without the funding necessary to cover 4 million additional low-income American children.
“To them, I simply say: It is never too late to do the right thing, particularly for our children.
“I know that some also complain that this vote is somehow a partisan effort.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Let me remind every Member here: The legislation to extend health insurance coverage to 10 million low-income American children has received wide bipartisan support not once, but twice.
“The reality is, we listened carefully to the criticisms of the first bill that was vetoed.
“We worked closely with Senators Grassley and Hatch, who met extensively with House Republicans.
“And we took a bipartisan compromise that was strongly supported by the American people – although vetoed by the President – and worked to make it an even stronger bipartisan compromise.
“We made significant, concrete changes – changes that neither affected nor undermined our principal objective: to ensure that 10 million low-income American children who are eligible for coverage under CHIP guidelines today can participate in this successful program.
“Furthermore, even after we passed this second bill on October 25th – with the support of 222 Democrats and 43 Republicans – our bipartisan discussions continued.
“In fact, since October 25th, Members on both sides of the aisle – and our staffs – have met about two dozen times to try to achieve even broader bipartisan support.
“Mr. Speaker, the CHIP extension that Congress passed before the end of the First Session provides states with funding for short-term maintenance of existing programs.
“However, those funding levels will be inadequate if demand for CHIP grows – which it will – due to worsening economic conditions.
“At the very same time, the Bush Administration has issued regulations that would severely restrain states’ ability to expand their CHIP programs and force those who have already expanded, like my State of Maryland – to either drop kids or cover them with 100 percent state funding.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this even stronger bipartisan, compromise bill – which does precisely what the President said he would do, but failed to do, if re-elected.
“Remember, in 2004, at the Republican National Convention, the President said: ‘In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.’
“I urge my colleagues: Stand with the bipartisan majorities in Congress who supported the first and second CHIP bills.
“Stand with the states’ governors, the American Medical Association, the Association of Health Insurance Plans, the pharmaceutical companies, nurses, and children’s advocates.
“Stand with the American people.
“And, stand with 10 million American children who will receive the health coverage they need and deserve under this legislation.
“Vote to override the President’s misguided veto.”