By Dan Froomkin
1:39 PM ET, 01/30/2009
Ceci Connolly writes in The Washington Post: "The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation yesterday to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children, a bill that would for the first time spend federal money to cover children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.
"The State Children's Health Insurance Program, which is aimed at families earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance, currently covers close to 7 million youngsters at a cost of $25 billion.
"Lawmakers voted 66 to 32, largely along party lines, to renew the joint state-federal program and spend an additional $32.8 billion to expand coverage to 4 million more children. The expansion would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax from 39 cents a pack to $1.
"The House approved similar legislation on Jan. 14, and President Obama is expected to sign a final version as early as next week."
Obama issued a statement about the bill this morning: "Providing health care to more than ten million children through the Children's Health Insurance Program will serve as a down payment on my commitment to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care."
Speaking of that commitment, Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times opinion column: "The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.
"Which raises a question: Why has the Obama administration been silent, at least so far, about one of President Obama’s key promises during last year’s campaign — the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?...
"There’s a populist rage building in this country, as Americans see bankers getting huge bailouts while ordinary citizens suffer.
"I agree with administration officials who argue that these financial bailouts are necessary (though I have problems with the specifics). But I also agree with Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who argues that — as a matter of political necessity as well as social justice — aid to bankers has to be linked to a strengthening of the social safety net, so that Americans can see that the government is ready to help everyone, not just the rich and powerful."