The health of children should be a bipartisan concern, says the US United Church of Christ's general minister and president, calling politicians to override of a presidential veto against an expansion of a crucial children's health insurance programme.
"Many of us in the UCC were deeply disappointed by President Bush's veto, but remain hopeful that Congress will right this wrong," said the Rev John H. Thomas this week. "Surely the health of our children should be beyond partisanship."
Under the proposal, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, pronounced "s-chip"), which was created in 1997, would be expanded to cover families of four who earn up to $72,000. Right now, the government insurance program only covers a family of four with a total household income of $40,000.
The proposal approved by Congress would take a 61 cent tax on cigarettes and use it to expand SCHIP by $35 million over five years, and add two to four million children to its rolls.
Democrats are hoping that 15 to 20 House Republicans will join them in overriding Bush's veto of the five year increase. Currently, SCHIP provides health insurance for 6.6 million children. If fully expanded, an additional 4 million children would be covered.
"Now it is up to members of Congress to do the right thing and override the President's veto," Thomas said. "The health of our children depends on it."
A vote in the House is expected on Thursday 18 October 2007. The United Methodist and other fait and church grous have also spoken in favour of the bipartisan initiative.
According to Sandy Sorensen, director of the United Church of Christ's Washington DC office, the denomination's Justice and Peace Action Network is actively encouraging its members to support the veto override.
"The key strategy, at this point, is to get the 15 votes we need in the House to override the veto," Sorensen commented.