U.S. House sustains Bush veto of health bill
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday sustained President George W. Bush's second veto of bill to expand a popular federal children's health program.
On a vote of 260-152, the Democratic-led House fell short of the needed two-thirds majority to override Bush on a measure certain to be an issue along with the slowing economy in this year's congressional and presidential elections.
Pushed by Democrats but also supported by many Republicans, the bill was aimed at providing health insurance to about 10 million children in low- and moderate-income families, compared to about 6.6 million children currently enrolled in the program. Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products would have been increased to pay for the additional coverage.
The program is designed to help families unable to afford private health insurance, but who earn too much to qualify for the Medicaid health care program for the poor.
Bush vetoed a version of the bill in October but Congress quickly passed another one that included some changes but not enough to satisfy the White House, which opposed the tax increase.
Bush has said the funding level sought by the Democrats for the health program would have expanded it beyond its original intent of covering poor children and was a major step toward government-run health care.
Democrats say the additional money was needed to ensure coverage to more children who lack health care coverage.
Lawmakers may not be able to settle their political differences before the November election. But Congress agreed in December to temporarily fund the current program through March 2009.
(Reporting by Donna Smith, editing by David Wiessler)