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Congress Vows to Override Bush Veto on Child Health Care

Congressional Democrats are vowing to override President Bush's veto of legislation that would expand health insurance coverage for poor children. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he supports the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, but vetoed its expansion on Wednesday because he believes the bipartisan legislation is deeply flawed.

"Millions of children would move out of private health insurance and onto a government program," he said. "Congress's plan would also transform a program for poor children into one that covers children in some households with incomes up to $83,000. Congress's plan would raise taxes on working people. And Congress's plan does not even fully fund all the new spending."

In his weekly radio address, the president says the legislation would take the country in the wrong direction, because more government-run health care deprives Americans of the choices and competition in the private market.

The president says he is willing to compromise with Congress if covering all eligible children not currently enrolled in the program requires more than the 20 percent increase he is proposing.

But congressional Democrats have so far shown no interest in negotiating with the White House on children's health insurance and hope to override the president's veto by convincing at least 15 House Republicans to change their vote.

In the Democratic radio address Saturday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the president wrongly claims that the bill is fiscally irresponsible. He says the legislation that the President vetoed would be funded by new cigarette taxes.

"The truth is this legislation is fully paid for," he said. "It does not add one nickel to the deficit or to the debt. Furthermore, under the president's proposal more than 800,000 children who now receive coverage under CHIP would lose that coverage."

The Children's Health Insurance Program currently covers about 6 million low-income children whose families are not eligible for the government-run Medicaid program but cannot afford private health insurance.