As expected, President Bush yesterday vetoed legislation that would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
At our religious leaders’ news conference on Tuesday, I spoke of the issues at stake here.
Jesus made healing a principal sign of his ministry and of the presence of the kingdom of God. From a biblical point of view, it is simply wrong when health becomes a commodity and accessibility depends upon wealth. Until something is done to make universal health care a reality in America, millions of families will remain poor. SCHIP is one bill – one program – to help fix the health care problem. No bill is perfect. But a bipartisan group of legislators think it is a good bill in the right direction.
To veto the bill, with no alternative plan instead – to simply abandon millions of poor children, to leave them to a market system that is failing to provide health care to enough people – is simply morally unacceptable. We must not allow this to become an ideological battle over the larger issue of health care systems. This is about a specific program for poor children that a bipartisan majority believes is working. This is not about health care theories – this is about children. And now, overriding a presidential veto will become the next faith-based issue.
Also speaking to the media were the heads of two denominations who also serve on our Sojourners Board. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said:
Mr. President, members of the House and Senate, 9 million American children are without health care coverage this day. Those children are our children. God has given them into our care. We are the responsible adults who say whether they see a doctor or not. Our hearts need to break for them because they are our own. They are our future, and we need to give them a bright future. When historians reflect back on this era, do we want to be remembered as the people who turned their backs on the uninsured children of this nation?
And Glenn R. Palmberg, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church added:
An earlier administration, some 20 years ago, tried to declare ketchup a vegetable in the children’s school lunch program. It was seen as a cruel and cynical response to the plight of low-income children. I still hear that talked about as the legacy of that administration regarding poor children some 20 years later. I think this veto has the potential of being talked about 20 years from now as part of the legacy of this administration, and it is seen as a cruel and cynical response to the needs of poor children.
As the Congress now gears up for the veto override battle, I commend the words of
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the primary sponsors:
I disagree with the [White House] legislative staff on all of this. Frankly, I think the president has had pretty poor advice on this. I can answer every objection that they’ve made, and I’m very favorable to the president. I know he’s compassionate. I know he’s concerned about these kids, but he’s been sold a bill of goods.