Strife in US over child health bill19th January 2009
Republicans in the United States have accused the Democrats of jeopardising a bipartisan bill for increased funding for paediatric healthcare.
The bill fulfills incoming President Barack Obama's promises to revise the healthcare system in the US, and could become one of the first he signs into law after taking office.
But Republicans are accusing Democrats of "playing politics" with the bill, and say that they violate the spirit of bipartisanship that was an integral part of the Democrats' campaign.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said that the spirit of bipartisan partnership for low-income children was disappearing before the committee's eyes.
Grassley blamed Democratic leaders in general, and not Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.
He said that the bill now excludes items sought by Republicans, though it once included them.
These include measures intended to prevent the programme from overtaking private insurance companies.
Grassley said that the way Democrats have acted about the new bill does not bode well for the future, and that many Republicans will not be able to support it.
Obama pledged to change the intensely partisan nature of politics by reaching out to Republicans on pressing matters.
But Baucus assured Grassley that Democrats and Republicans would work together to reform the US$2.3 trillion industry.
Republicans also opposed an amendment allowing child healthcare benefits to legal immigrants.
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas called the provision a poison pill since it injects a divisive issue into the debate.
The amendment brings the Senate bill closer to one recently approved by the US House of Representatives.
Forty Republicans and a majority of Democrats passed the bill on a vote of 289-139.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley called the Republican complaints ridiculous.
Pointing to the number of Republicans voting for the House bill, he said it made no sense that the Senate version could not enjoy support.
FamiliesUSA, a nonprofit healthcare consumer group, said that the new bill as it is currently drafted would drastically reduce the number of uninsured youth in the country.
They said that it would provide for healthcare for 4.1 million children, or nearly half of those currently without coverage.
Seven million children are currently enrolled in the programme, which will be paid for by raising the tax on cigarretes by US$ 61 cents, as well as by raising the tax on other tobacco items.
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Title: Strife in US over child health bill
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 9855
Date Added: 19th Jan 2009