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Might SCHIP Resurface This Year?

For months, political observers have been waiting for Congress to revisit legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which President George W. Bush has vetoed (and House Republicans have sustained) twice in the last year.

The thinking was purely political: That is, even if the Democrats couldn’t sneak their SCHIP expansion past the White House on the third go-round, at least they would put congressional Republicans in the tough position of voting against kids health care — like voting against puppies — right before the election.

A New York Times piece yesterday claimed the Democrats have scrapped those plans, quoting Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, as saying: “We are not going to change any votes on the children’s health insurance bill. We still don’t have enough to override a veto.”

But on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) left open the possibility that SCHIP could resurface this month. From the transcript of Hoyer’s press talk:

Hoyer: That is still under consideration …We may well give the Republicans another chance to do the right thing on SCHIP…

Reporter: Yesterday, it was reported that you were not going to bring that back up for a vote.

Hoyer: I said we may do that. I am not saying we are going to. There is a lot of discussion about that. Frankly, some people, advocates, believe that we could do better with a Democratic president in terms of ensuring that children are covered. So that is one of the concerns.

With the whirlwind of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin whipping through the land, it’s just possible that another SCHIP vote is exactly the kind of policy diversion the Democrats are searching for to change the conversation.

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