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Bush OKs temporary SCHIP extension

After twice vetoing legislation to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, President Bush on Saturday signed a bill to extend SCHIP for three months.

Under the extension, states will retain enough funding for their SCHIP plans to keep current enrollees covered until March 31, 2009, according to the Senate Finance Committee. The extension was introduced as part of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007, passed in the Senate on Dec. 18.

The move comes as temporary reprieve for Congressional supporters of SCHIP expansion, whom have attempted to pass a $35 billion, five-year reauthorization aiming to cover some 10 million uninsured children nationwide. Since its inception five years ago, SCHIP has provided coverage for an estimated 6.6 million children.

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Upon Bush's second veto, Congressional Democrats warned that they would seek to extend SCHIP's authorization for one year. Such action would have moved SCHIP's deadline to coincide with the 2008 presidential elections, potentially causing political discomfort for Republican candidates who oppose high-level funding for the popular program.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said on Saturday, "We're pleased that the program will be extended and that states can be certain of their funding."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of Bush's chief rivals on SCHIP issues, seemed unimpressed by Saturday's events. Pelosi reiterated her party's stance on SCHIP, saying Democrats won't rest "until 10 million children receive the healthcare coverage they deserve."