For the second time in three months, the House failed Wednesday to override President Bush's veto of a children's health insurance program.
Democratic leaders fell 15 votes shy of obtaining the two-thirds majority needed for an override. The final vote was 260-152, with 42 Republicans siding with Democrats.
The measure called for a $35 billion increase for the program known as the State Children's Health Program, or S-CHIP.
The program would have provided insurance coverage to children whose families incomes are too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough for them to qualify for private insurance.
The President had earlier last year supported some type of increase to the program. However, he did support not the proposed bill, which would have more than doubled the spending on S-CHIP.
Last December, Bush vetoed the bill for a second time, saying the bill would encourage too many families to replace private insurance with government-subsidized health coverage.
Democrats say more families will have to rely on S-CHIP this year, if the faltering economy continues its downward spiral.
"Hardworking American families are struggling and in dire need of assistance," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.
Republican leaders had argued the vote was unnecessary, because Congress had already authorized enough money for the program to maintain current enrollment levels through March of 2009.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that the House would continue to focus on the program during the coming election year.
"This won't be your last opportunity this year to address this issue," Hoyer told lawmakers during the debate.
Both sides said they were willing to talk after the vote in an effort to reach a compromise. Republicans contend that the current bill does not go far enough to prevent adults and illegal immigrants from getting health coverage through government programs.
But Democrats said such claims were greatly exaggerated. The bill maintains a prohibition on illegal immigrants participating in S-CHIP.
Source: Associated Press