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Kids’ health plan won’t go away

WASHINGTON – House Democratic leaders, almost conceding defeat in their quest to override President Bush’s veto of a popular children’s health bill, promised Sunday to pass another version of the bill after a showdown this week.

The bipartisan coalition backing expansion of a health care program created for poor children has sought to pressure more Republicans to vote to override President Bush’s veto on the House floor Thursday.

But GOP leaders are confident they have the votes to sustain the veto, which requires a two-thirds majority to override, and House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., did not challenge that claim.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the House would override Bush, Hoyer said: “No, I don’t think I’m going to predict that now.”

Similarly, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about Republican predictions that the bill would die, she responded: “And isn’t that sad for America’s children?”

Still, she promised that while Democrats would try “very hard” to override the veto, the core dispute would not die if they failed. “One thing’s for sure: We won’t rest until those 10 million children have health care,” she said.

At issue is a bill that would expand coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for uninsured children – mostly in low-income families but also in some in middle-class households.

Democrats portray Bush and those Republicans opposing the expansion as standing in the way of providing health insurance to millions of needy children.

Bush and his GOP allies are trying to recast the debate as one over the role of government in health care. They argue that the measure sent to the president goes too far because it would offer government assistance to families who could afford private coverage.

Pelosi did not offer any details on how Congress might eventually change the bill to make it acceptable to Bush. She also said she did not want to reduce the number of children who would be covered by the version sent to Bush.

“We have a plan,” she said. “We’ll take it one step at a time.”