Martinez’s plan would reauthorize the SCHIP program as it currently exists for uninsured children in lower-income, working families. Then, in an attempt to address the question of higher-income populations who would benefit from the Democrats’ $35-billion bill, Martinez relies on tax credits. Those tax credits would allow about 1.3 million uninsured children to gain private insurance. They would be getting government support in the form of a tax credit, but they wouldn’t be part of the massive expansion that liberals have proposed.
Could this proposal bring both parties together to talk? Although the approach using tax credits has won bipartisan support in the past -- including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- it might take a miracle for Martinez to bridge the gap in his own party before even exploring the option with Democrats. That would be unfortunate.
Republicans must make a good-faith effort to offer a viable alternative to the Democrats’ SCHIP bill if there’s any hope of getting both sides to sit down at a table. Although Reid has slammed the door on a compromise, he knows Republicans will ultimately decide the fate of SCHIP because of the razor-thin margins in Congress.
Bush’s veto gave lawmakers a fresh slate to begin anew. They should use the opportunity to get something done.