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WASHINGTON -- President Bush issued a second veto earlier this week for a bill that would expand children's healthcare by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes, the New York Times reported.
Bush rejected a similar bill for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in October, despite support from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, the report stated. The bill was sent to the president 10 days ago, and he had until Wednesday to reject the bill, or let it become law, according to the report.
"Because the Congress has chosen to send me an essentially identical bill that has the same problems as the flawed bill I previously vetoed, I must veto this legislation, too," Bush wrote in a message to the House, which was cited by the Times.
If Congress sustains the veto, both Democratic and Republican leaders have stated they want to pass a one-year extension of the program, the report stated. The leaders' aim is to include enough money in the legislation to maintain the program's enrollment, estimated at 6.6 million children, the Times reported.
To maintain enrollment levels, there would need to be an additional $800 million, or at least $5.8 billion total, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The most recent vetoed bill would have increased spending by $35 billion, bringing the total to $60 billion over five years, and would have increased enrollment by four million children, the report stated.
Bush has argued that the measure would push families with private health insurance into a government plan, which would change the original purpose of the program by allowing it to cover adults, the Times reported.
"This Congress failed to send the president legislation that puts children first, and instead they sent for a second time one that would allow adults onto the program, expand to higher incomes and raise taxes," Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, told reporters when the veto was announced.
"It's disappointing that even after weeks to reconsider, the president remains unwilling to give low-income, uninsured American children the health care they need," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, told the Times.