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Congress: SCHIP battle

"A major expansion of government health insurance to nearly 4 million children passed the House of Representatives Tuesday, but without enough Republican support to overcome President Bush's promised veto. The vote was 265-159, with 45 Republicans supporting the bill. It would take 289 votes to override the president's veto." 

The New York Times: "Explaining his objections [to the legislation], Mr. Bush said, 'The bill goes too far toward federalizing health care and turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.' Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and a co-author of the bill, said the president's charge was 'factually incorrect.' The goal, Mr. Grassley said, is to sign up low-income youngsters who are already eligible but not enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program."

The legislation is expected to reach the Senate floor later this week.

MSNBC.com's Tom Curry notes that among the House Republicans voting to expand the program will be involved in competitive House races next year, per the nonpartisan Cook Political Report: Reps. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, Jim Walsh of New York, and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Also voting against the bill were eight Democrats -- including tobacco state Democrats such as Reps. Mike McIntyre and Bob Etheridge, both from North Carolina. The bill would pay for expanding insurance coverage by imposing a 61-cent increase in the 39-cent per pack federal cigarette tax, which amounts to a 156 percent tax increase.