The following is the Democratic response by Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania to President Bush's radio address to the nation on Sept. 22, 2007:
Good morning. This is Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. In the next few days, Congress will consider one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year - the renewal and expansion of the nation's health insurance program for children called "S-CHIP".
A bipartisan group of congressional leaders has negotiated a compromise that is designed to cover a large portion of the 8.7 million kids in our country who do not have health insurance. This legislation should be passed with strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress. In recent days the Administration has tried to turn this into a partisan issue and has threatened to veto.
The health of our children is far too important for partisan politics as usual. A veto battle in Washington would expose millions of children to the risk of losing insurance. That's simply unacceptable. Our leaders have an obligation to enact this bill quickly and the President should sign it immediately. In fact, nothing speaks more to our obligations as a society than the need to provide for the health and well being of our children.
The nation's governors have been working to expand health insurance coverage for children in a bipartisan way. Responding to the individual needs of their states, they have crafted programs that stretch public dollars and reach into communities where private insurance companies are not offering affordable coverage.
In Pennsylvania, last year we created the "Cover all Kids" program. And now we are providing coverage to 93% of the children in families where the income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level. Last winter, with the approval of the Bush Administration, we expanded our program to cover even more kids. But Pennsylvania is not alone in creating innovative approaches to covering more children.
California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Kansas and Connecticut are among the other states leading the way. The Governors of these states are moving on this problem because the private insurance market is not.
Unfortunately, the Administration last month changed its position and announced new rules for S-CHIP that could halt the efforts of these and other states to cover more kids. If the Administration is serious about solving our health care crisis, it should be expanding, not cutting back this program which has made private health insurance affordable for millions of children. Congress should reverse this latest action when it votes on this new legislation.
The S-CHIP program expires on September 30 - just 8 days from now. If the President vetoes this bill, 15 states will be without funding in October and many thousands of children will lose their coverage. The remaining states will feel the pinch in the months to come. Congress has been working hard on the legislation to renew the program and make more resources available for it. It has been difficult work to craft a bipartisan plan and to make sure it is paid for.
When the nation's governors met together in July, a bipartisan group of 43 of us joined in a letter to congressional leaders urging them to do just that. Now all Members of Congress and the White House have an opportunity to enact this critical program.
If you support providing health insurance coverage to more of our needy kids, I hope you will call, write, or e-mail your Members of Congress, your Senators and particularly the White House to let them know now is the time for Congress to pass this legislation and for the President to sign it. I recorded this message earlier this week and you are hearing it on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in my religion. On this day we are taught we must atone for our sins and remember our obligation to each another. So I can think of no better day to speak to nation on the urgency of ensuring that every child in this county has health care.
I'm Governor Ed Rendell. Thank you for listening.