SCHIP expansion passes House of Representatives

Published 11:48 am Monday, January 19, 2009

By By Jo Bonner
The eyes of the world will descend on Washington D.C. this week as Barack Obama becomes our nation’s new president, new commander-in-chief and the new leader of the free world.
There is no doubt that the new president is off to a fast start, and one of the first items on his agenda is an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as SCHIP.
Established in 1997 by the then Republican majority in Congress, SCHIP provides states with federal matching funds to cover uninsured children from families with income that is above Medicaid eligibility levels but who still cannot afford health insurance. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have SCHIP programs in operation, and Alabama has one of the best programs in the nation.
Make no mistake, SCHIP is a good program, and I believe that every low-income child or pregnant woman currently eligible for SCHIP should continue to be eligible.
The Democratic majority, however, has once again called for an expansion of SCHIP - going far beyond the original scope of the program which is to cover children in low-income, working families.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the SCHIP bill will result in 50 percent more higher-income children being enrolled in SCHIP than are currently eligible for the program.
The SCHIP bill also increases the number of adults on SCHIP, taking even more resources away from low-income, uninsured children. CBO projects that the bill could result in over 500,000 more adults on SCHIP in 2012 than there are today.
In order to pay for this expansion, this bill will create the most regressive tax increase in American history - raising tobacco taxes by over $70 billion over the next 10 years. The Heritage Foundation estimates that we’ll need to find at least 22.4 million new smokers by 2017 in order to adequately fund this expansion of SCHIP.
SCHIP should not replace private health insurance or force children with private health care to move into a government run program. We should make sure that all eligible low-income children are covered instead of removing families from private insurance plans and placing them on the government-run programs funded exclusively by the taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the House passed this massive expansion of SCHIP, H.R. 2, by a vote of 289 – 139. It is now headed to the Senate and is expected to be one of the first pieces of legislation signed by the new president.
New Committee Assignments
The start of a new Congress brings new committee assignments, and after having served on the House Appropriations Committee last Congress, I was named to new subcommittees last week.
I am now the newest member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee and the Labor, Health, and Human Services Subcommittee.
The Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation and related agencies, and the Labor, Health, and Human Services Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and related agencies.
The Republican leadership also asked me to serve as the ranking Republican member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee.
The Ethics Committee has jurisdiction over matters relating to Congress’s Code of Official Conduct. I was first named to the committee at the beginning of the 110th Congress and was the first member of the Alabama delegation to serve on a congressional Ethics Committee since U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) served in 1999. The late U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL), served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee for four Congresses.
While no one ever seeks to stand in judgment of one’s peers, it is with a deep sense of humility that I will continue to serve on, and now lead, the Ethics Committee.
Clearly, Congress has a legitimate problem due to wrongdoings over the past few years, and I certainly hope we can work to improve by making sure we are doing the people’s work with integrity.
In addition to the Appropriations and Ethics committees, I will again serve as an assistant on the Republican Whip Team, a position to which I was named as an incoming freshman in 2003.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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