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    House Pushes for Vote on New SCHIP Bill

    Minor changes meant to win over Republicans include tighter eligibility. Bill still calls for an increase in federal tobacco excise taxes.

    WASHINGTON -- Democrats were pushing earlier this week to move a new bill to vote yesterday on the House floor, which calls for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by an increase in the federal excise tax charged on cigarettes, The New York Times reported.

    The new bill comes as a response to a presidential veto of a similar bill on Oct. 3, which the House failed to override by 13 votes. Changes to the bill, in an effort to win over more Republicans, include tighter eligibility standards -- barring the use of federal money to cover illegal immigrants, childless adults and children of families with incomes exceeding three times the poverty level, or $61,950 for a family of four, the report stated.

    Similarities include the expansion of coverage to 10 million children and an increase in spending by $35 billion, for a total of $60 billion in the next five years, through a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco, according to the report.

    "The bill addresses all of the concerns that were expressed by our colleagues and by the president," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told the Times. "We hope the Republicans will take yes for an answer."

    The changes improve the bill and would pick up some Republican votes, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., told the paper.

    However, the new bill -- which Senate supporters have been working on with supporters in the House -- would still cost more than what President Bush wants, and it being financed by tobacco taxes is another feature to which he objects, the paper reported.

    Meanwhile, Florida Rep. Adam H. Putnam, who is also the chairman of the House Republican Conference, told the Times Democrats were trying to "ram through the House another ill-conceived bill."

    Additionally, President Bush would veto the revised bill, aides told Bloomberg News.

    The measure would "move children from private health insurance to government programs" and raise tobacco taxes unnecessarily, the administration said in a statement cited by Bloomberg News.

    "The bill's drafters did not come up with a policy and then figure out how much it would cost," the administration said in the statement. "Rather, they came up with a revenue number, figured out how much money that raised, and then designed a policy to spend that much."

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