S-CHIP: Fight Over

Despite promises to the contrary, the House leadership has decided that it won't bring another Supplemental Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) vote to the floor before the election.

If you search for S-CHIP on this blog, you'll find that discussion of an increase in funding and coverage for that program dominated the press last Fall. Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl battled over the bill with press releases and mailers. President Bush vetoed it twice, and the House failed to override those vetoes.

The S-CHIP "compromise" that finally passed at the end of last year extended the current program until March, 2009. Though it was promoted as a temporary measure, today's move by the House leadership indicates that last year's vote was a surrender, not a compromise.

S-CHIP began as a modest increase to a popular program which had some bi-partisan support (at least in the Senate). It morphed into a major ideological fight that dragged in issues of immigration and fiscal responsibility. I don't see it as a "win" for anyone. Democrats look impotent, Republicans look like obstructionists, and a huge amount of time and voter attention was wasted on an issue that ultimately wasn't solved.

S-CHIP is also a cautionary tale. Despite almost certain Democratic gains in the House and Senate, it's highly unlikely that either body will have a veto-proof majority. Unless Democrats also win the White House, we could be looking at four more years of S-CHIP style stalemate on issues of health care, energy and the economy.