TOPICS > Politics

President Bush Vetoes Children’s Health Insurance Legislation

October 3, 2007 at 6:10 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Today’s action marked just the fourth time the president has vetoed a bill. It sparked an immediate uproar on Capitol Hill from members of both parties and a pledge from House Democrats to try overriding the veto in two weeks.

Well, that’s where we go tonight for an assessment of what happens next, from two leaders who will be counting votes. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois is chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Eric Cantor of Virginia is chief deputy whip for the House Republicans.

Gentlemen, thank you both. It’s good to see you.

Let me start with you, Congressman Emanuel. Do you think by waiting these two additional weeks that you’re going to be able to get the votes you need for this override?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), Illinois: First of all, I think we’re going to do better than the 265. I already know about three or four votes that are going to switch on both sides of the aisle. And so I think the intensity and the pressure — because people know that it’s wrong to ask for $190 billion increase for the war in Iraq and yet deny 10 million children health care and call it excessive spending.

And I think, as people have focused on this, they realize that the parents who are working full-time and the kids, because of no fault of their own, don’t have health care, it’s the right thing to do. And I think these two weeks will bring an intensity to this subject that to date really just kind of emerged on the scene. And you can see a number of members on both sides of the aisle who cast a no vote and have already indicated that the right thing to do is a yes vote.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So are you saying you do think you’re going to have enough votes for an override?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: No, what I’m saying is I think we’re bringing — within, let’s say, 24 hours, Judy, I know about four votes already that are going to switch. And I think, in the next two weeks, we’re going to go hard at work at this, because I think folks know that what they did here is not right to deny 10 million American children health care…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me…

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: … and then just continue on an open-wallet approach to the war in Iraq.

Sustaining the president's veto

Rep. Eric Cantor
R-Va.
We have a proposal that Rahm and his party has put forward that, frankly, puts adults first. In his state, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and others, we have SCHIP programs...where there are more adults being insured than poor children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Cantor, how worried are you and your Republican colleagues that they will have enough votes to override, especially when the polls show, what, 7 in 10 Americans support this expanded child health insurance?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), Virginia: Well, Judy, I'm very confident that we'll have the votes to sustain the president's veto. And, you know, I wish it was as simple as what Rahm is saying about what this bill does.

I mean, let's call it how it is. The American people are sick and tired of the politics that continue to roar in Washington. And what we've got here is we've got a priority, and that is to deal with poor kids first. That's what the SCHIP bill was about when it was first put into place; that's what it needs to be about in continuum.

And what we have now is we have a proposal that Rahm and his party has put forward that, frankly, puts adults first. In his state, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and others, we have SCHIP programs, or state programs, where there are more adults being insured than poor children.

So all we're trying to say is, look, let's take care of the poor children first. If your state, if the states out there want to expand and give it to adults, that's fine, but let's require states to deal with poor children first. That's what the American people believe in, and that's what they're for. When you quote the polls that are out there, Judy, it's about insuring poor kids first.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Judy?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Emanuel, well, let me specifically ask you about his point that, in several of these states, because the president said that today, as well, that there are more adults than children, including in your state of Illinois?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Let me quote both Republican Senator Grassley and Senator Hatch, and specifically Senator Grassley on this point. The president doesn't know what he's talking about, and nor does my good friend, Eric, on this point.

The bill specifically prevents states -- in two years, all the adults have to be off it. Second, let me talk about Dolores Sweeney, in my district, who's a mother with three children, works full-time at an insurance company. Premiums in the state of Illinois have gone up 78 percent for health insurance. She works at a insurance company. That company doesn't provide health care.

Now, you can tell Dolores she can go on Medicaid, but she's chosen to be a worker, an employer, a good parent. And part of being a good parent is giving her kids health care. This is not about all we're saying is adults or whatever. The bill prohibits that. In two years, all the adults transition out.

In fact, in the state of Virginia, where Eric is from, 74,000 kids would get health care whose parents work full-time. And it's about working parents who are working full-time and both being good parents and good workers. And Dolores Sweeney is doing the right thing by working, and we're doing the right thing by giving her health care, because she is too rich for Medicaid and too poor for the private market.

And the other issue is Eric's kids -- and both of us are good friends, always talk about our children -- we make a little over $150,000 as a congressman. The taxpayers pay for our health care and for the health care of our children, the same Blue Cross plans, the same WellPoint plans, the same private insurance plans that these kids get. If it's good enough for us and good enough for our kids, it's good enough for the taxpayers who pay this health care.

Phasing out adult coverage

Rep. Rahm Emanuel
D-Ill.
The fact is [the legislation] does solve a problem, and it solves a problem for people who work full-time whose kids don't have health care. That's what SCHIP was designed to do; that's what SCHIP is doing here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Cantor, what about that point, and his earlier point that these adults you mentioned would be phased out under this expanded plan after two years?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Well, first of all, you know, the taxpayers don't pay for my plan, because I'm not on this plan, so...

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Four-hundred and thirty-five of your colleagues are.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: But let me set it straight here. You know, I think in a perfect world, if somebody who has a job should have insurance, and we should encourage that. But I think what the taxpayers are expecting us to do is spend their money wisely.

And the bottom line is, in Virginia, under an expanded program the way that Rahm and his party wants it to go, we would be capturing individuals that are currently paying for health insurance. In fact, CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says that 1.6 million children who are already on private insurance policies will then shift to the government policies.

But let's go back to it again. It's about poor kids first. I mean, that's what we need to get done here.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Judy, let me say, both of us....

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's ask Congressman Emanuel to respond to that particular point.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: I will. Both of us hear constantly from our constituents they want us to solve problems here in Washington, not to fight.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Absolutely.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: That's why 45 Republicans in the House joined 220 Democrats. That's why 18 Republican senators joined 50 Democratic senators. You don't get 68 votes in the Senate for something these days unless you have a big consensus.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Judy?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: And so I agree -- he likes to call it our bill. Senator Hatch, the Republican, and Senator Grassley, Congressman Ray LaHood, have been instrumental in helping create this bipartisan compromise that 43 governors of both parties across the country support.

And the fact is it does solve a problem, and it solves a problem for people who work full-time whose kids don't have health care. That's what SCHIP was designed to do; that's what SCHIP is doing here.

Republican support for SCHIP

Rep. Eric Cantor
R-Va.
I'm concerned about making sure that it is the near-poor and the poor kids that get the help first.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Cantor, let me ask you, he mentioned that there are some Republicans who are supporting, including Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who said today that it is not accurate what the president is saying, that this is a move toward federal government-run health care. He said this is a block grant to the states, giving the states a lot of power. Now, who's right here?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: I'll tell you, the Washington Post says that this is a move towards more government-controlled Washington-based health care. Our own Congressional Budget Office says that 1.6 million children will move off of the private insurance plans and onto a Washington-controlled, government-sponsored health care program.

But again, the point, Judy, is the American people, if they know about SCHIP, they know that it is a plan geared for poor kids, OK? And when Rahm says that's not true that we won't have any poor kids neglected, that's not true. We're talking about requiring states to fulfill an obligation to the near-poor and the kids that don't have access to health insurance first.

Again, if Illinois wants to go ahead and if they want to provide health insurance coverage to families making upwards of $70,000 a year, I think that, if Illinois wants that flexibility, they can have that. But I'm concerned about making sure that it is the near-poor and the poor kids that get the help first. And we could solve that right now.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Judy, here's the thing that's interesting. First, Eric didn't answer this question...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: ... I will -- 77 percent of the kids in this plan are in private insurance plans. He didn't want to talk about that, but that's the fact.

Number two is it's not an either/or choice; that is, we are going to help the poor, near-poor, and the working class who don't have health care because we have a health care crisis in this country. And our president and some Republicans have decided to turn their back on the American people and their children.

And the fact is, there's a health care crisis because companies are cutting children. And this steps into that and makes sure this is why 45 Republican House members joined 220 Democrats, 18 Republican senators joined 51 Democrats. That is a bipartisan consensus to solve problems here in America.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Judy, I think I deserve the last word.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, Congressman Cantor?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Yeah, Judy, thanks again. Listen, I do think it's time for us to roll up our sleeves and get down to the basics and solve the problem. There's no excuse that Rahm and his party have said, "Well, we need to delay this," because you know what's going to happen. There are going to be attack ads run; there's going to be so much noise around this and, frankly, misrepresentations. It's poor kids first, and that's what we've got to deal with. We could solve it today.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Doesn't have to be an either/or problem.

Paying for SCHIP, Iraq War

Rep. Rahm Emanuel
D-Ill.
41 days of the war in Iraq, 10 million kids get health care for a year. One month of the war in Iraq, 7.5 million kids get health care for a year. And the fact is, that's going to focus the mind of the American people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I do want to ask you -- I do want to ask Congressman Cantor about the comment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today who said 41 days of the war in Iraq, she said, would pay for a year of covering these needy children. Is that an issue, an argument, that you think is going to sway some of your Republican colleagues?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Again, Judy, I'm very confident we'll have the votes to sustain the president's veto, because I think that members of our conference, as well as some of Rahm's who supported the position that we've taken in rejecting this expansion, want to make sure that poor kids get their health care first.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: Judy, I want to say this: 41 days of the war in Iraq, 10 million kids get health care for a year. One month of the war in Iraq, 7.5 million kids get health care for a year. And the fact is, that's going to focus the mind of the American people.

But as to the 15 Republicans who have decided to uphold the president's veto, they have rubber-stamped him on the war, they have rubber-stamped on out-of-control spending. And I can't give them political advice, but rubber-stamping him on denying 10 million children health care doesn't many any sense.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: There's no rubber...

REP. RAHM EMANUEL: They have been rubber stamps.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Judy, there's no rubber-stamping here. They're in control. So we don't have a rubber stamp. They're in control here. It is on their watch that the poor kids of America are going to be without health insurance coverage. And that's what it's all about. We've got to make sure that poor kids go first and then let them, if they want to expand in their states to families making over $80,000 a year, then they can go at it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have to leave it there. We've already got the day October 18th marked, circled on our calendar. Gentlemen, thank you very much, Eric Cantor, Rahm Emanuel. Gentlemen, thank you both.