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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Headshot

My Challenge to the President

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I want to make sure you see the latest video from Families USA, one of the most important advocates in the ongoing battle to protect children's health care.

Families USA is part of the broad, bipartisan effort that achieved a solid initial victory last week, when both the House and the Senate approved a bill extending and reforming the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed the bill.

Earlier this week, a group of children pulling little red wagons went to the gates of the White House to urge the President to sign the bill, because it's so vital to good health care for the nation's children in the years ahead. I hope very much that President Bush and Congress will hear and heed their plea.

Apparently this President's priorities aren't the same as mainstream America's:

He says the bill costs too much. But for the price of one day in Iraq, we could cover 256,000 children. One week would cover 1.8 million children. And just over one month of the Iraq war would cover the full cost of the bill and insure 10 million children for a whole year.

Because the current SCHIP program falls far short of meeting the need, hundreds of thousands of children have lost their coverage on President Bush's watch. It's incomprehensible that the President would threaten to veto legislation that corrects this serious problem.

There's one thing President Bush and I do have in common, though - American taxpayers cover 72% of our health care premiums, because current law has long-permitted good insurance coverage for federal employees.

So I ask President Bush and the Members in Congress who support his veto:

Would you deny your own family what you'll be denying to millions of other families if this bill is vetoed? If you don't believe the federal government should support children's health care, how can you in good conscience accept it for your own families?

All Members of Congress have the peace of mind that when their children are sick, they can afford to take them to the doctor. Why doesn't every American family deserve that peace of mind?

The President's veto will have terrible consequences - just look at the faces on the Families USA video. It's time everyone understood what those consequences are.

That's why so many of us in Congress - Republicans and Democrats alike - are fighting so hard for this bill, to keep the faith with the millions of children who are counting on us for the healthy start in life that every American deserves.