WASHINGTON - President Bush vetoed legislation yesterday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the program.
It was Bush's seventh veto in seven years - all but one since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Yesterday was the deadline for Bush to act or let the bill become law.
He also vetoed an earlier, similar bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which provides coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.
Bush vetoed the bill in private. In a statement notifying Congress of his decision, he said the bill was unacceptable because, like the first one, it would allow adults into the program, cover people in families with incomes above the U.S. median, and raise taxes.
"This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country's health-care system in the wrong direction," Bush's statement said.
Bush urged Congress to extend the joint federal-state program at its current funding level before lawmakers leave for their holiday break.
Congressional leaders already said earlier yesterday that they would now try only to extend SCHIP well into 2008 in basically its current form.
The House voted 211-180 late yesterday to put off until Jan. 23 a vote on overriding Bush's veto.
"We are not going to let this veto stand," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said.
Republicans said Democrats were scheduling the override vote to coincide with the week Bush comes to Congress for the State of the Union address.
The bill passed the Senate by a veto-proof margin, but that was not so in the House. Even after the bill was approved, negotiations continued in an effort to reach a compromise that would attract enough Republican lawmakers to override a veto. But that effort failed.