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Watch  Senator Murray's speech

(Washington, D.C.) – In a passionate and personal speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) urged Senators and President Bush to do the moral thing and support legislation to expand and strengthen healthcare for children.

The Senate is considering a bill to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

In her speech this afternoon, Murray shared the story of Sydney DeBord, a nine-year-old girl from Yakima, Washington. Sydney's mom wrote to Senator Murray this week and said that without CHIP, Sydney would not have gotten the care she needed.

Murray noted that the bill supports Washington state, which covered low-income children long before the federal government did.

"This reauthorization bill provides Washington state with the funding and flexibility to provide more children with quality health care. This bill is a big win for our state and the many families that struggle to provide care for their kids," Murray said.

Murray said that President Bush's threatened veto reflects the wrong priorities.

"The bottom line, the moral line, is that vetoing this bill will endanger coverage for millions of children currently enrolled in CHIP.  And it will deny millions of kids who would become covered under the bill the chance to see a doctor when sick.  It seems, sadly, the moral light President Bush says guides his decisions has dimmed," Murray said.

Senator Murray's full remarks follow:

Mr. President, all children should be able to see a doctor when they are sick, and all children should get the medicine they need to make them better. When a child gets a cut that requires stitches, comes down with a fever or an earache, or with any other imaginable problem, they should be able to get help.  Period.

Unfortunately, today, in America, the richest and most successful country ever, this is not the case. In fact, millions of American children do not have health insurance -- which means millions of American children cannot see a doctor when they are sick -- and millions of American children do not get the medicine they need to get better.

And as wages remain stagnant and the cost of living -- heat, food, clothing, college tuition, and doctors' visits -- increases, more and more parents are unable to afford health care. So the ranks of uninsured children grow. This tragedy can only be described as a shame.  And it is – unquestionably -- our moral obligation as Americans to correct this. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative, making sure our children get healthcare is the moral thing to do.

Covering More Kids

Now Mr. President, most of us in the Senate know this, and are working to do the moral thing – they support reauthorizing and improving the Children’s Health Insurance Program -- or CHIP -- which takes massive steps toward providing all kids with health insurance.

This bill ensures that the 6.6 million children enrolled in CHIP continue receiving care, and it provides 3.2 million uninsured children with coverage.  As a result, over the next five years, the number of uninsured American children will drop by more than one third. 

Mr. President, it also strengthens the program by increasing funding for states that need the most help.  In recent years, under President Bush’s watch, many states have faced funding shortfalls, jeopardizing the coverage of countless children. This bill also provides an emergency fund to cover unexpected shortfalls arising from economic downturns or emergencies.

The Congressional Budget Office - a non-partisan group of experts - predicts that 800,000 children now covered by CHIP will lose coverage over the next five years unless there is an increase in funding above the base amount required.

Expands Outreach Efforts

This legislation before the Senate today also provides $100 million for outreach and enrollment efforts that increase participation of children in CHIP. This includes a national campaign to raise awareness of CHIP, and the targeting of children in rural areas with high populations of eligible but un-enrolled children.  Another outreach effort will provide funds for translation and interpretation services for CHIP, so minority children, including Native Americans and Hispanics, will become aware of the program.

Helps Washington State

Finally, this reauthorization plan provides Washington state with the funding and flexibility to provide more children with quality health care. This bill is a big win for our state and the many families that struggle to provide care for their kids.

Tobacco Tax is a Win-Win

Mr. President, one of the smartest parts of this bill is that the money for these initiatives - $35 billion over five years -   comes solely from a 61 cent excise tax increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products. No other programs are cut.  Social Security is not raided.  The deficit will not be increased.  And not only will this provide millions of American children with health care, but it is estimated that it will lead 1.7 million adult smokers to quit smoking -- that it will cause a 9.2 percent decline in youth smoking -- and that it will prevent over 1.8 million kids from becoming smokers. So when you can provide health care to millions of children and lead millions of young people to stop smoking or to never pick up a cigarette, it is a win-win for our country.  And for our children.

Mr. President, it is important that I thank my colleague, Max Baucus, for his tireless work on this issue, and for America’s children.  Without his determination we would not be so close to providing millions more kids with health care.

Broad Bipartisan Support

It is also important to note that this bill is bipartisan.  Senator Grassley worked hard with Senator Baucus in creating the current legislation, and it was passed out of committee on a bi-partisan basis.

Another big supporter of this bill is Senator Hatch, a co-sponsor of the original 1997 bill.  Recently, he said:

 "We are trying to do what is right by our children, who are currently not being helped by our healthcare system ….If we cover children properly, we will save billions of dollars in the long run. Even if we didn’t, we should still take care of these children."

Senators Grassley and Hatch aren’t alone on their side of the aisle.  Many of their colleagues also realize supporting this legislation is the moral thing to do.

President Bush Opposes Covering More Kids

Unfortunately, President Bush does not agree and has threatened to veto the bill.  He will give his reasons for the veto.  He will make complicated arguments and throw various numbers around. But the bottom line, the moral line, is that vetoing this bill will endanger coverage for millions of children currently enrolled in CHIP.  And it will deny millions of kids who would become covered under the bill the chance to see a doctor when sick.  It seems, sadly, the moral light President Bush says guides his decisions has dimmed. 

Sydney DeBord of Yakima

Mr. President, I would like to share the following story with President Bush and with any Senators who oppose this bill.

This is Sydney. Sydney and her mom, Sandi DeBord, live in Yakima, Washington.  Sydney has Cystic Fibrosis. Sydney’s mom recently wrote me.  She discussed her daughter and the importance of CHIP, which has allowed Sydney to receive care, extending her life and allowing her to live to the fullest. Ms. DeBord Wrote:

My daughter has a life shortening genetic condition called Cystic Fibrosis. With quality health care I believe her life has been extended and she has been able to enjoy 9 years of quality life.

Of course she has spent many weeks in the hospital on life saving IV Antibiotics during these 9 years and not a day goes by that she doesn’t have to endure taking a bucket full of meds but despite the obstacle, in her way, she is a happy child enjoying life to the fullest.

She is active, does well in school, has many friends and loves to sing and dance. However NONE of this would be possible if it wasn't for the quality health care she receives as part of the CHIP health care.

I know for a fact that without this bit of assistance her life would end much sooner due to the inability to afford quality health care for her. As her parent, it frightens me to even think some day she may be without health care coverage if programs like CHIP are no longer available.

I write to ask you to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and ensure the program is adequately funded to provide high quality health care for children with cystic fibrosis. "

 I hope President Bush and opponents of this bill were listening to this story.  I know Ms. DeBord hopes they were, too.

Mr. President, it is our moral duty as Americans to ensure all children can see a doctor when they are sick.  This bill fulfills that duty.  It ensures that children covered by CHIP remain covered.  And it ensures that millions without insurance will receive it.  I strongly urge my colleagues to do the moral thing, and support the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.