Presidential Radio Address - 22 September 2007
Good morning. In just eight days, the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- or "SCHIP" -- is set to expire. This important program helps children whose families cannot afford private health insurance, but who do not qualify for Medicaid, to get the coverage they need. I strongly supported SCHIP as a governor, and have strongly supported it as President. My 2008 budget proposed to increase SCHIP funding by $5 billion over five years, a 20 percent increase over current funding.
Instead of working with my Administration to enact this funding increase for children's health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed. One of their leaders has even said such a veto would be a "political victory." As if this weren't irresponsible enough, Congress is waiting until the SCHIP program is just about to expire before passing a final bill. In other words, Members of Congress are risking health coverage for poor children purely to make a political point.
The proposal congressional leaders are pushing would raise taxes on working Americans and would raise spending by $35 to $50 billion. Their proposal would result in taking a program meant to help poor children and turning it into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year. And their proposal would move millions of children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care. Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage -- not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage.
My Administration remains committed to working with Congress to pass a responsible SCHIP bill. In the meantime, I called this week for Congress to make sure health insurance for poor children does not lapse. If they fail to do so, more than a million children could lose health coverage. Health coverage for these children should not be held hostage while political ads are being made and new polls are being taken. Congress must pass a clean, temporary extension of the current SCHIP program that I can sign by September 30th, the date the program expires.
In addition to extending the SCHIP program, Congress needs to focus on passing fundamental spending bills -- especially the annual funding bill for the Department of Defense. Congress must also pass additional funding for our troops fighting the war on terror. We need these bills so we can get our men and women in uniform essential equipment -- like additional armored fighting vehicles that are resistant to mines and ambushes.
The American people expect their elected leaders in Washington to work together by passing responsible bills in a timely manner. I am confident that with good will on both sides, Democrats and Republicans can do this. We can meet our obligations to help poor children get health coverage. We can meet our responsibilities to the men and women keeping our Nation safe. And we can do our duty to spend the taxpayer's money wisely.
Thank you for listening.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).