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SCHIP Veto Override Vote Fails

The House failed to override a presidential veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill Thursday, 273-156, as Democrats proved unable to entice a handful of Republicans across party lines.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Thursday that the House will return to the health insurance measure immediately, although she declined to detail what changes, if any, would be made to the bill.

“It is our intention to put a bill on the president’s desk in two weeks,” Pelosi said, later adding: “There are only 10 Republican Members of Congress standing the way now of 10 million children.”

Among the 44 Republicans crossing party lines to oppose the veto was Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), who earlier voted in favor of the bill.

“This is not a great bill, but it is a good bill,” Wilson said on the House floor. “I would urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the bill today.”

During the late-September vote on the bill itself, 45 Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill, which is paid for by a 61-cents-a-pack tobacco tax hike.

Eight Democrats had opposed that September vote, largely citing opposition to the tax. However, all but two of those Members, Reps. Jim Marshall (Ga.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.) voted to override the veto.

Nonetheless, Democrats failed to procure the additional 15 Republican votes they had deemed necessary, and fell short of the 289 yeas needed to reach the two-thirds majority to override. The House currently counts 433 Members, with two vacancies caused by the recent deaths of Reps. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) and Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).

Debate over the $35 billion plan to cover 10 million children is now expected to stretch well into 2008, and Congress is expected to temporarily extend the program in the meantime.

“You either support working families get health care for their children, or you don’t, it’s just that simple,” Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said during debate.

Republican leaders have criticized numerous aspects of the measure, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated Thursday calls to revisit the bill.

“We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to sit down and work together to resolve the differences we might have to keep this important program alive and available,” Boehner said on the House floor.

House Republicans also have said they were excluded from negotiations on the bill. “I hope that opportunity to sit down and work together comes today after this vote,” Boehner added.

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