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House OKs new kids’ health bill

But supporters once again fall short of veto-proof vote number.

WASHINGTON — The House passed a revised children’s health proposal Thursday, but not by the two-thirds margin that supporters will need if President Bush vetoes the measure as promised.

The 265-142 vote was a victory for Bush and his allies, who urged House Republicans to reject Democrats’ claims that changes to the legislation had met their chief concerns. If the same vote occurs on a veto override attempt, Bush will prevail, as he did earlier this month when he vetoed a similar bill.

U.S. Reps. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, and Chris Carney, D-Dimock Township, voted in favor of the bill.

The tally was seven votes short of a two-thirds majority. Several House members were absent.

Liberal groups continue to run attack ads against Republicans siding with Bush on the issue.

Democratic leaders said changes to the bill, which would add $35 billion to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, had addressed critics’ concerns about participation by adults, illegal immigrants and families able to afford health insurance. But GOP leaders called the changes insignificant and politically motivated.

The decade-old health program is aimed at families that do not qualify for Medicaid but are too poor to afford medical insurance. As with the bill Bush vetoed, the revised measure would add would $35 billion over five years, financed by a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes.

Under the revisions, the program would exclude families earning more than three times the federal poverty rate. Low-income childless adults, which some states cover, would be phased out in one year. And states would have to be more rigorous in checking the validity of applicants’ Social Security numbers, an effort to exclude illegal immigrants.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, likened the revisions to “window-dressing rather than substantive changes.”

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