S-CHIP is a Defining Issue That Neither Side Can Afford to Lose

09/26/2007 08:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The ongoing battle to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program is a big one. Stakes are high for everyone involved: the Congress, the White House, governors, state legislators, and, most importantly, nearly 3.5 million additional children that would be covered by health insurance.

This is an enormous issue of morality. There are an estimated 48 million Americans without access to healthcare; 9 million of those are children.

At issue here is a disagreement on how much the program should be increased. Democrats and many Republicans are advocating a $7 billion per year increase. That would achieve the coverage of the additional 3.5 million children previously noted. However, the White House only wants to increase the spending $5 billion per year. The program lasts for five years, so the total difference over the life of the program is $10 billion.

Over the $2 billion dollar per year difference, President Bush and his soul-lacking White House staff are not only threatening a veto, but applying an incredibly amount of pressure on House Republicans to vote against the bill. He says that it is moving us toward socialized healthcare.

Frankly, I don't care what you want to call it. Government exists to serve its people. Children are the most prized possession of any nation and we have a moral imperative as a nation to protect and nurture the children who represent the future of our Democracy.

To put this into perspective, we're spending a billion dollars a day on the war in Iraq. In less than a week and a half, we will have spent the entire difference between the two proposals on the war. That is embarrassing. I can't believe the White House is digging its heels in on this. Further, I can't believe that they aren't being publicly flogged by every politician and organization in America.

Here's what is at stake politically. Bush, after approving six Republican budgets that increased spending at a far greater rate than pretty much all of his predecessors, is trying to reclaim a position of fiscal conservatism. Because of his historically low approval rating, he is trying to shore up the support of his conservative base. Bush is also in great need of a congressional victory not related to Iraq or the trampling of Constitutional rights.

On the Democratic side, they desperately need a victory over the president in order to assert their new power in the majority. Their base is very disappointed in their inability to change the course of the war. A failure here would further demoralize the confidence that the base, and the general public, will have in the ability of a Democratic Congress to achieve measurable results.

All that being said, House Republicans hold the keys to the castle here. It is up to them to change course and vote to override the president's expected veto. Failure to do so should put them at the top of the DCCC's target list. Their Democratic challengers should go on the offensive immediately. If a Democratic challenger doesn't yet exist, then a party surrogate should target the Republicans who voted no.

At issue here is access to healthcare for nearly 3.5 million children. We as a nation can't afford to leave them behind for the sake of George Bush's political needs.