Last week, I came to the Huffington Post to speak about what I called "one of the most important actions of this new Congress" when the House voted with overwhelming bipartisian support to renew and improve the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP).
Today, in a move that surprised no one, President Bush unceremoniously used his dusty veto pen on SCHIP. And while the president's veto may have been expected, it should not diminish the gravity of his decision to rip away health insurance from the 6 million American children already covered by SCHIP and to prevent another 4 million from being insured.
Numerous governors from both parties stand in united support of SCHIP. You may have seen New York's own Governor Spitzer's post here at the Huffington Post earlier this week about the devastating effect this veto will have on the children of New York and America.
SCHIP currently provides health care coverage to six million children that otherwise would not. Nearly 400,000 children are enrolled in New York alone, the second highest number in the nation. The bill we passed last week with the support of more than 45 Republican Members of Congress adds coverage for more than four million children, to insure ten million.
SCHIP is a program both enormously popular with the public and already proven enormously successful. It is the reason why President Bush pledged on the campaign trail in 2004 that "America's children must also have a healthy start in life. ... we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need."
Perhaps the most stunning fact is that the entire cost of the SCHIP program to insure 10 million American children is equivalent to the price of about 41 days of the president's War in Iraq. 41 days in Iraq. There has perhaps never been a more stark contrast between the president's priorities.
Now that the president has chosen to ignore the 10 million reasons to support SCHIP, the battle returns to Congress where I will be leading the fight to override the president's veto because the health of millions of children the president deems unimportant are literally on the line.