President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children, saying that expanding the program would enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private insurance.
The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.
The 10-year-old program, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, costs the federal government $5 billion a year and helps provide health coverage to 6.6 million low-income children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance on their own.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said he is "bewildered" that Bush is fighting the expanded funding for a program supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. "This is the chance for him to finally be a uniter and not a divider," Emanuel said. "You have consensus across party and ideology, and a unity on the most important domestic issue, health care -- except for one person."