Friday, October 26, 2007

Tough Call: S-CHIP or SoCal Wildfire Photo Op?

The House passed a revised version of S-CHIP, and the GOP is crying foul.

After hours of partisan warfare and delay, the House easily approved a new version of legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program yesterday, but the vote failed to get any more Republicans to override another promised veto from President Bush.

The 265 to 142 tally included 43 Republicans, two fewer than the version that passed Sept. 25. Democratic leaders made changes to answer Republican criticism: tightening rules to exclude illegal immigrants from the program, adding incentives for states to drop families earning more than 300 percent of the poverty line, and driving adults from the program faster.

But Republican leaders rallied their wavering troops around a new issue, whether the vote should have taken place when much of Southern California was on fire and nine House members were touring the disaster zone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted she had no choice but to move forward and give the Senate a chance to send the measure to Bush next week.

“If Republicans believe in SCHIP as they say they do… then they won’t be looking for an excuse to vote against the bill,” Pelosi said.

But when Republicans suggested debating the measure yesterday and voting Monday night, she refused, infuriating even her closest Republican allies on the issue.

“I used to think they cared about the policy. Now I think they care more about the politics,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who had been working for the bill and personally appealed to Pelosi for a delay. “Everything from baptisms to bar mitzvahs, we’ve put off votes for here. But they won’t do it for the people of California.”

That’s a pretty lame-ass excuse; it’s more important to be making a trip to California to get in the way of the firefighters, disrupt traffic, and gawk at smoldering ruins just so you can put in some face-time for your re-election ads than it is to stay in D.C. and vote on the S-CHIP bill? As if their presence in California is actaully going to make a difference. When a pol accuses the other guy of playing politics, you know he’s talking about himself.

The White House is threatening another veto, and the wingers are already on the prowl to find some kid in San Diego whose house got burned down so they can accuse him of arson.