Reichert backs child-health-care bill
Rep. Dave Reichert plans to support a compromise bill that would increase health-insurance coverage for children of low-income families...
Seattle Times Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — Rep. Dave Reichert plans to support a compromise bill that would increase health-insurance coverage for children of low-income families, Reichert's chief of staff said Monday.
The Auburn Republican has notified the White House and Republican leaders of his intention to vote for the legislation, despite repeated veto threats by the president, chief of staff Mike Shields said.
The bill could go before the House today.
Reichert voted against the original House bill last month, saying he opposed the cuts in Medicare that would help pay for expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SHIP).
The compromise bill would raise federal tobacco taxes to increase SCHIP funding by $35 billion.
Neither Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, nor Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has indicated how they will vote, their offices said.
President Bush has said the proposed SCHIP expansion is an unwelcome step toward government-controlled health care.
In the past month, the Democratic Party and various advocacy groups have launched a wave of press releases painting Reichert as a Dickensian villain because he voted against the original bill.
The fight over the legislation also has widened rifts between Democrats and Republicans in the state's congressional delegation.
Reichert engaged in a tense exchange with Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, at a closed meeting of the delegation in late July.
Reichert also had words with one of the state's most politically active unions, which has lobbied in support of the bill.
A version of the bill passed the House 225-204 in early August. All six of the state's Democratic House members voted for it, while the three Republican members opposed it.
Another version passed the Senate last month 68-31; both Washington Democratic senators voted yes.
Bill supporters are trying to get compromise legislation approved before the end of the month, when the insurance program is set to expire.
Reichert says his position on SCHIP has been misrepresented. He supports the program, Shields said, but opposed the funding formula in the original House bill. Reichert said shifting money from Medicare would cut health coverage for seniors.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began calling voters last week in Reichert's 8th Congressional District to say he opposes SCHIP. The district covers east King and Pierce counties.
In response, Reichert blasted a group of SEIU members who, wearing their union colors, had come to his Capitol Hill office to lobby for SCHIP.
The next morning, Reichert sent out a press release demanding that SEIU apologize for the union's "dishonest automated telephone calls."
Shields said Reichert was direct with the SEIU group about its campaign and was just standing up for himself.
For years, Washington state has spent millions more on children's medical care than the federal government has repaid, because of the state's less-stringent eligibility rules.
The bills that Congress passed in early August both contain a provision that could obligate the federal government to cover those costs.
Before those votes, Inslee, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction, set up a delegation meeting July 24 to discuss strategy for getting that provision into the bill.
Inslee wanted to be able to tell his committee chairman that all Washington House members backed the bill.
During the tense meeting, Reichert wanted Inslee to guarantee that Democratic leaders had included the reimbursement provision in the legislation. Inslee said there still was no final version of the bill, but having all nine Washington state votes ready would help.
McDermott then told Reichert it was his own party's fault that the bill's contents weren't widely known. Republicans had set up rules controlling such information when the GOP was in the majority, McDermott said.
In the end, Reichert co-sponsored a different SCHIP bill.
That version, Shields said, is similar to the compromise the House will likely take up today.
Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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