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The New SCHIP Bill

October 25, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: Here’s the OpenCongress page for the new SCHIP bill.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has scheduled a vote this morning on a new version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill that President Bush vetoed last week. The new bill was introduced on Wednesday evening — it was just posted to the Library of Conress’s Thomas.gov this morning and OpenCongress has yet to receive it.

SCHIP provides health insurance to children from families that don’t qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford private insurance. Congress’s current bill to reauthorize it would increase its funding by $35 billion over five years, enough to provide coverage to about 4 million more children that it current does. The entire expansion would be offset by an increase in the federal tobacco tax.

Pelosi says that it is not a major revision of the original SCHIP bill, that it has only been “tweaked,” but it was made public so recently that it’s almost impossible to for concerned citizens (and probably some legislators) to locate the tweaks and see if they support them before votes are placed. If the goal of holding another SCHIP vote is to gain enough Republican support to override a veto, don’t wavering Republicans and their constituents need a way to decide if the changes in the new bill satisfy their concerns?

For what it’s worth, here’s Pelosi’s rundown of the changes in the new bill:

>“The bill addresses all the concerns that were expressed by our colleagues and by the President. It clarifies the language on the claim that was made that people making $83,000 a year could receive SCHIP; that was patently not true, and it is clarified in the legislation that it is not so.
>
>“It addresses who is eligible for the legislation and clearly defines eligibility and that does not include illegal aliens. They are not entitled to benefits. In fact, you cannot get benefits in our country unless you have been here for five years and legally so. The bill makes that very clear.
>
>“The third category of complaint was that more adults were receiving the benefits than should and the previous legislation phased out adults receiving benefits over two years. Those are adults that are members of families that are receiving SCHIP. Over one year this new bill will phase out those adults without children who are eligible to receive these benefits in some states, as they have received the opportunity to do so in the past.

Click here to see the full text on Thomas.gov. I’ve spent some time comparing the text of the new bill to that of the original bill, but I haven’t been able to locate the substantive tweaks. Anybody else see them?

We’ll update as soon as the new bill is up on OpenCongress.

UPDATE: On a related note, here are two bills pending in Congress that would establish requirements for how long legislation must be available online before it is voted on:

H.Res.63 — prohibits “any vote by the House on any bill, joint resolution, conference report, or amendment unless: (1) the text of the measure has been available to all Members and their staffs i more…n both printed and electronic format for at least 10 days; and (2) any amendment that makes substantive changes has been made available for at least 72 hours.”

H.Res.504 — “It shall not be in order to consider any bill or joint resolution, or conference report . . . [unless] such measure is made available to Members and the general public on the Internet for at least 48 hours before its consideration.”

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