WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For weeks now, a popular health program has pitted the White House and Congress against each other -- as each side struggles to find a way to fund a government insurance plan for America's poorest and most vulnerable children. At a stop in Arkansas President Bush once again defended his veto of a children's health insurance bill, calling it a step toward government healthcare. "It sounds like to me somebody wants to extend the reach of the federal government into medicine," Bush said. The State Children's Health Insurance Program or "SCHIP" covers more than six million children whose parents don't qualify for Medicaid, but can't afford private insurance. Congress passed bi-partisan measures expanding SCHIP to cover four million more children -- the administration says that goes too far. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, "If you're a poor child, we need to take care of you, we need to make sure you have coverage. If you're anyone else, you need to make certain you can buy a policy that you can afford." Democrats say without the extra funding those children may not get coverage at all. The House will vote to override the president's veto on Thursday -- supporters are more than a dozen votes short, but are working to win over more republicans. Rep. Steve Kagen said, "Which side are you on? Are you the side of children who need you the most? Or are you on the side of special interests. We democrats are on the side of the children." The Senate does have enough votes to override the veto. The president says he wants to negotiate a compromise, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she hasn't heard from him.
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