Republicans Say SCHIP Veto Override Unlikely

Republican leaders of the House say there aren't enough votes to overturn President Bush's veto of the children's health insurance bill known as SCHIP. NPR Senior News Analyst Cokie Roberts talks with Steve Inskeep about the Democrats' plan of attack.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's get some analysis as we do each Monday from NPR Senior News Analyst Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Okay. So, Republican leaders in the house say that there are not enough votes to override the President. What are Democrats saying about this?

ROBERTS: Well, the speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying - says they're getting close. But I - it is unlikely that they get a veto. Look, there are all kinds of reasons that members of a president's party vote to sustain a veto that have nothing to do with the substance of the legislation itself. And it has a lot to do with political power. The president is already incredibly weak. His approval ratings are very low. And if the Republicans vote to override his veto, it makes him even weaker, and then that makes them even weaker, because, you know, it just makes the whole party weaker. And that is not really in their long-term interest. And as you just heard their whip, Roy Blunt, say this isn't October of an election year. They've got a whole year to deal with this. And so I think the likelihood of overriding is very low.

But the Democrats are going to make life incredibly difficult. If you get close, you can often get an effect where you get more votes as it looks inevitable and you don't want to be the last guy standing against children's health. So, there's a lot of calculations that go on here but I think the likelihood of an override is very low.

INSKEEP: Is there still room for compromise on the legislation itself?

ROBERTS: Well, the president, over the weekend, said so, and so did his Health and Human Services secretary. He says the president's position is that poor children ought to have health insurance and middle class children shouldn't have it financed by the government.

The Democrats are not all that eager for a compromise right now. They like this issue and they want to keep it out there. And they also want to talk about something other than Iraq. The speaker also said over the weekend that Iraq has eclipsed all that the Democrats have accomplished in Congress, in her words. And so they want to keep this subject going. But at some point they are going to have to refund the program. And then there is likely to be some more compromise. But my guess, Steve, is that it won't much. That the Democrats will get most of what they want because so many Republicans also want it, including a lot of Republican governors.

And the Senate is already veto-proof. You've four now, Senate Republicans retiring, assuming Larry Craig does retire. And nobody's going to want just walk this plank again for the president.

INSKEEP: Well, now, we do hear that Republican leaders say the election is more than a year away. True enough, I suppose, but the presidential election or the campaign anyways going on, full bore, right now.

ROBERTS: Well, in an interesting poll in the Des Moines register - this is the kind of poll that we would normally not pay that much attention to - it was among likely caucus goers in Iowa, and it shows Hillary Clinton leading among those caucus goers, 29 percent to 23 percent for Edwards, 22 percent for Obama. And the only reason we're paying any attention to that is that even though she has been running consistently ahead in national polls, that hasn't been the case in Iowa. And her opponents have used that fact to say that she's really -her candidacy is not inevitable. But now you add this Iowa poll to her money raising and her solid lead in the national polls, and she starts to look inevitable. So all of her opponents are now ganging up on her. You heard a lot of that over the weekend. And the news cycle is likely to shift now, Steve. You're likely to see a lot of stories about Hillary Clinton's positions that will not necessarily be all that flattering.

INSKEEP: Closer and closer scrutiny of Hillary Clinton as she runs for president. Analysis, as we get every Monday morning, from NPR's Cokie Roberts.

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