A Senate bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week by a 17-4 vote, with six Republicans and all 11 Democrats supporting an increase of $35 billion dollars over five years. Several leading conservatives were strong supporters. The New York Times reported Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) as saying, "I am proud to support this important bill, which will provide health insurance coverage to approximately four million more children who would otherwise be uninsured." According to the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the original authors of the program, said: "It doesn't make me comfortable to advocate for such a large increase in spending. But it's important to note that [the program] has been tremendously successful. And one of the lessons we've learned is that it's going to cost more to cover additional kids." The bill is scheduled to be on the Senate floor next week.
For its part, the House is proposing legislation that would provide an increase of $50 billion, which would cover about 5 million more children. Both versions would be at least partially funded by an increase in the federal tax on tobacco products.
Last weekend at their annual summer meeting, the National Governors Association sent a letter to the president and Congress. While not specifically supporting either bill, the governors said: "While we have not taken a position on the actual overall funding amount or the sources of revenue used as offsets, we are encouraged by the Senate Finance Committee's efforts to move a bipartisan reauthorization bill that provides increased funding."
And President Bush? He says he’ll veto either version. "It's a way to encourage people to transfer from the private sector to government health-care plans. ... I think it's wrong, and I think it's a mistake." A White House spokesman added that the president’s advisers "will certainly recommend a veto" of the Senate committee's proposal because of its size and the plan to fund it with a tax increase. The administration's plan for an additional $5 billion wouldn’t even cover all the children currently insured.
Remember, this is a president who is content with spending $12 billion a month on war, yet finds spending $7-10 billion a year on making sure that kids have health insurance "wrong" and "a mistake." I can’t imagine a more clear case of utterly distorted priorities. Compassionate conservatism has been on life support for the last several years of this administration. President Bush's threatened veto of SCHIP will officially pronounce it dead.
We have been working with the PICO National Network, one of the leading groups organizing for SCHIP, to remind policymakers that children’s health coverage is a moral issue for the faith community. Father John Baumann, executive director of PICO, had this reaction to the president’s threat: "(SCHIP) is a highly successful program that has always had bipartisan support as a pragmatic way to help states reach children who are not poor enough for Medicaid but whose parents cannot obtain coverage for their children at work. SCHIP is a popular and successful program that should not be dragged down into a partisan political fight over health-care ideology."
I agree. For far too long, Americans in poverty have been trapped in a partisan debate. Now, a strongly bipartisan program that works is trapped by a president who sees only ideology. Call your members of Congress, and urge them to support the necessary expansion of SCHIP for <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = U1 />
Your congressional members need to hear that as a person of faith you believe that no child should go without treatment or depend on an emergency room for care because they lack health coverage. If we are judged by how we treat the least among us, we must make sure that all our children have coverage. Call your members of Congress today at (877) 367-5235, a free number set up by our friends at PICO National Network.
Tell them that people of faith are counting on them to stand up for the millions of uninsured children in the U.S. SCHIP has successfully reduced the uninsured rate for children by one-third over the past decade. Now Congress needs to pass a strong SCHIP bill by a veto-proof majority to provide hope to the millions of children in America who still go to sleep at night without health coverage.
For more information and other ways to take action, please visit www.coverallchildren.org.
|THIS WEEK IN GOD'S POLITICS|
Julie Clawson: My Search for the Justice Bra, Part 1
I realized the other day that I needed a new bra. Usually I would hop in the car, drive to the nearest Victoria’s Secret, and buy some mass-produced, synthetic hot pink thing that claimed to make me sexy. Easy enough. But I just couldn’t do it this time. My conscience wouldn’t let me. Over the last few years, my knowledge of justice issues has grown. I can no longer ignore the realities of sweatshops, child labor, toxic pesticides and dyes, and unjust trade laws. Sure, it’s easy to walk into the mall and buy whatever is on sale. It’s easy to not care about where my clothes came from, who made them and under what conditions, and what their long-term effects will be. I buy things without asking those questions all the time—like I’m sure the ad execs want me to. Of course, I’ll buy the fair trade coffee or the organic produce when it’s readily available, but, when it comes to just about everything else, I still know how to mindlessly consume with the best of them.
Diana Butler Bass: Michael Vick Versus Gregory of Nyssa
While the rest of the world buried its collective nose in Harry Potter last weekend, I spent my time reading early Christianity. It proved a tough call: The fate of Hogwarts or the Roman Empire? I chose Constantine over Voldemort. I am not a total geek, but I am writing a new book on church history for progressives. One problem of classical liberalism was its rejection of tradition and the inability to ground its vision in Christian history. The past was seen as imperfect, full of injustice and mistakes, and incomplete understandings of nature, humanity, and God. Thus, liberal Christians embraced the future as the major arena of God’s activity—tending to privilege what is new over what was old.
Jim Wallis: Benedict on War
While Pope Benedict XVI has been criticized for some of his recent statements, here's a short speech he delivered on Sunday before the midday Angelus that is well worth reading. Noting that he is on vacation, he said, "I feel all the more intensely the impact of the sorrow of the news that comes to me about bloody altercations and episodes of violence that are occurring in so many parts of the world."
Ryan Rodrick Beiler: CT on 'Bush's Heresy'
For those who'll accuse me of Bush-bashing, the headline was Christianity Today's. Ted Olsen has an interesting round-up of conservative bloggers, mostly criticizing recent statements by Bush about his theology of foreign policy.
Jim Wallis: The Catholic Bishops Respond on Iraq
A few weeks ago, I wrote that a group of Catholic members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking to meet with the bishops to discuss mobilizing the church to end the war in Iraq. The bishops have responded.
Becky Garrison: A Palestinian Pastor Speaks
The "little town of Bethlehem" is becoming more and more like a prison surrounded with a 25-foot high concrete wall. Once the wall is completed there will be only three gates leading in and out. The situation has a psychological impact on people living here. On the other hand, 75 percent of the people in Bethlehem live on tourism. In the last seven years, the situation for tourism was very difficult, which resulted in a very high unemployment rate (over 55 percent).
Ryan Rodrick Beiler: Discerning Documentary Dogma
I've seen two powerful documentaries over the past week: Michael Moore's new film Sicko, and the lesser-known Manufactured Landscapes. Both films are intensely political, but the contrast in their approach is striking.
Gareth Higgins: 'A Mask That Eats the Face'
Filmmaker Michael Moore and journalist Mika Brzezinski have both discovered recently what happens when you try to challenge the upside-down celebrity status quo—with Moore being bumped from Larry King Live in favor of an interview with Paris Hilton, and Brzezinski learning just what "values" drive the TV news when she tried to report on Iraq instead of the hotel heiress’ release from prison. Sometimes it seems impossible to do anything to resist the fiasco of much of our popular culture other than turning off our television sets. But, for most of us, that would be a mistake—for one thing, there’s too much good stuff out there in pop culture-land if you look hard enough.
Mary Nelson: Love the Hell Out of Them
I’ve been thinking a lot about "beloved community" lately, rereading the stories of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and the civil rights movement (where the phrase gained prominence) and reflecting on my own experience in building community over the last 40 years on the west side of Chicago.
Chris LaTondresse: Conservative Kingmakers at Work
An interesting and important development in the 2008 race for the White House: Conservative evangelical hatchets are out in force, trying to cut down a prominent 2008 presidential hopeful. Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? John Edwards? Wrong on all three counts.
|SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS|
Does the Bible Support Sanctuary?
Time Magazine (online)
Leviticus 19:33: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong... [he] shall be as native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Progressive Evangelical leader Jim Wallis refers to this as "the Levitical immigration policy."
Democratic Candidates Trying to Reach Religious Voters
Of Church and State
The Atlantic Online
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