You're SCHIP-ing me!
When Buzz returned to D.C. after meetings in Florida this week, we were surprised to find this name on the list of Nay votes for reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP: Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, one of the program's biggest supporters, who had led the debate in favor of the bill when the House first considered it.
Castor, a freshman, was one of just eight Democrats to vote against the final version this week, which passed both chambers of Congress by wide margins and now appears headed for a veto by President Bush. But as Castor explained in a letter to the Times, much of the original House version was gutted during negotiations with the Senate.
That included provisions to cut bureaucratic barriers to enrolling kids in the program, something Castor had insisted on. She said the Senate version also relied too heavily on cigar taxes for funding. The bill would have set policy for five years. If the president vetoes it as promised, and the House is unable to override it, then Congress will have a chance at crafting a better bill later, she said.
"Why set national SCHIP policy for five years through this Senate version?" she wrote. "At this point, it is better to extend SCHIP now and then work with a new president and Senate in early 2009 for true and meaningful reform."
Around Tampa Bay, Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores voted for it, while Republicans Adam Putnam, Ginny Brown-Waite and Gus Bilirakis voted against it.