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    Senate Leader: SCHIP Bill Debate Opens Today

    Taking up the legislation will be the first action after voting to confirm President Obama's Treasury Secretary nominee.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Senate will today take up legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by levying a 61-cent tax increase on cigarettes, with a vote expected by the end of this week, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

    Reid told Politico.com late last week the SCHIP bill will be the first item up for debate after the Senate votes today on confirming Treasury Secretary-nominee Timothy Geithner. The House passed its SCHIP bill Jan. 14.

    In addition, Reid may allow Republicans to offer amendments to the bill when he brings it to the floor. He will review the amendments, which must be filed by Monday night, and then decide whether to allow the chamber to vote on them during floor debate, according to a report by The Hill.

    Senate Republicans were expected to file numerous amendments to the SCHIP measure, including one regarding a new measure concerning immigration, the report stated.

    Congressional Democratic leaders were eager to pass the bill and provide President Barack Obama with an early victory on one of his major priorities.

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia predicted the SCHIP bill would sail through the Senate. "This bill is going to absolutely steamroll right out of here," Rockefeller told the paper. "I almost can’t wait" for the political debate, he added. "It’s going to pass. Just go ahead and vote against kids and then run for reelection."

    CSNews’s Mehgan Belanger speaks out about kids vs. smokes on a recent Spare Change blog post. Click here to read more, and post your thoughts.

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