Democrats Cave On SCHIP

[ Posted Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 – 15:31 UTC ]

Politics is sometimes a brutish and nasty game. At least it's supposed to be, when both sides actually fight for their positions. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes vacations get in the way.

That's a harsh assessment of the Democratic Congress, and it's no accident. Because the news just broke that the Democrats have completely rolled over on what should have been one of their legislative centerpieces for use as a blunt instrument to beat Republicans soundly about the ears during next year's campaign. The Hill has the sad story of how congressional Democrats just completely and utterly caved on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill. [This article is depressing for a Democrat to read, I have to warn you.] Here is the relevant information from the article:

The Democrats' yearlong fight to boost federal spending on children's health insurance ended with a whimper Tuesday.

After coming up short in their efforts to enact a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) -- enduring two presidential vetoes along the way -- congressional Democrats signed off on Republican demands to extend the program until 2009.

Rather than expiring just before the presidential and congressional elections next year, SCHIP will keep running through March 2009 under the plan originally conceived by House Republicans and hashed out by the Senate Finance Committee and Senate leaders late Monday.

The GOP stood fast against the Democratic bill, which received veto-proof margins in the Senate but came up about a dozen votes shy in the House, despite attracting some GOP support. In doing so, it also stood fast against a multifaceted public relations campaign waged by the Democrats, allied liberal organizations and practically every industry in the healthcare sector. That strategy appears to have paid off, with Democrats abandoning, for now, their plans to ramp up SCHIP.

The GOP claimed victory. "It's certainly another example of the Democrats caving to the Republican position at the eleventh hour," said a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Not only did the GOP prevent the Democrats from expanding the program, the minority party prevented the majority party from using an SCHIP vote and veto next fall as a wedge issue just before Election Day.

"Making it January or February or March of 2009 limits the possibility Democrats would use this as an election-year issue to try and create a false sense of urgency to pass inherently bad policy," Boehner's spokesman said.


You know what? I don't often agree with John Boehner (and I still don't agree with the dig about "inherently bad policy") but he's right. This is another example of Democrats caving at the eleventh hour to the GOP position. And, more importantly, this is a monumentally stupid political move, because it completely takes the issue off the radar screen for the entire election season.

With friends like these....

While I can't even bring myself to reproduce most of the stunning display of wimpitude shown by Democrats quoted in this article, I have to include at least one here, because the idiocy it represents needs attention. An apologist... oh, excuse me, "aide"... for Nancy Pelosi actually said the following:

Likewise, the Democratic leadership aide predicted that voters would remember votes against the larger SCHIP bills next November, regardless of what happens throughout 2008. "That vote is still incredibly important and still incredibly powerful," the aide said.


You're kidding, right? Voters walking into the election booth next November are supposed to be saying to themselves: "Gee, all that stuff that happened this year, and the entire campaign season aren't what's important to me -- I'm going to vote Democratic based on a bill that they passed last year and forced Bush to veto... right before they gave Bush everything he wanted. Boy, that sure showed those Republicans! What leadership! We need more of that sort of thing in Congress, so I'm voting Democratic."

[Propriety does not allow me to completely vent my feelings on this moronic stance, due to the amount of profanity which it truly deserves.]

A bit of recent history on this bill can be found in an article I wrote last week. At the time, I was annoyed that Nancy Pelosi was postponing the veto override vote until late January, to make political hay right before Bush's State of the Union speech to Congress. They were hinting, just last week, that they were going to postpone action on the bill until September of next year, to make it a major issue in the election. I came out against such political maneuverings, but never in my wildest nightmares did I expect Democrats to just completely punt the issue into 2009, the way they reportedly now have.

The only conclusion I can come to is that Democrats love their vacation time even more than Bush does. The worst and most craven things the Democratic Congress have done this year seem always to come just before the congresscritters are about to break for one of their astoundingly long vacation periods (like the wiretapping bill they rushed through right before their monthlong summer break, for instance). To twist the knife, Harry Reid has just announced that the Senate will be taking an extra week of vacation, and will not return until January 22nd, instead of January 15th.

This is what we pay these people for?

I started asking the question in September whether it was time for Harry Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader. Now there are reports that Chris Dodd is considering challenging him for the post. At this point, I have to say I would support Senator Dodd if he did so. Because I am tired of Harry Reid refusing to fight on battles that need to be fought. I am tired of reading Republican quotes about how Democrats consistently "cave" and give in to the GOP position on almost everything. I am tired of hearing how Democrats take their best political weapons, right before election season, and just toss them overboard rather than using them effectively.

For all the Democrats in Washington who still wonder why Congress' approval ratings are lower than President Bush's, I offer up Exhibit A -- caving on SCHIP. Giving the Republicans such a stupendous political Christmas present is possibly the stupidest thing I have seen Democrats in Congress do this year.

And that's saying a lot.


[There will be no "Friday Talking Points" column this week (I've got something more fun planned for Friday), so allow me to award in advance the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Chris Dodd for his display of unabashed leadership in stopping dead in its tracks the FISA bill which gave the telecommunications industry immunity for illegal wiretapping. Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week goes to every single Democrat in Washington who had anything to do with this SCHIP travesty, and all their aides who helped as well. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Coal in your stockings for all of you! Hmmph.]


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


2 Comments on “Democrats Cave On SCHIP”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I don't know why I am surprised and disappointed - I must be one of those optimists who keeps hoping that our congress will do the right thing by us.



  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Stan -

    Yeah, there's always hope, but once in a while I'd like to see, you know, actual RESULTS from Democrats. Well, I'm not being completely fair, they did get some work done this week (energy bill), but I've been following SCHIP for so long that this was a major disappointment personally.



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