Heller to Sustain Presidential Veto on Insurance Bill

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Congressional Democrats and the President are preparing for a showdown this week. Democrats will try to override Bush's veto of a plan to expand kids' health insurance coverage -- an they're looking for Republican support.

Tuesday evening there were three demonstrators gathered outside Republican Congressman Dean Heller's Reno office. Demonstrators want the congressman to break rank on this issue.

By one estimate, expanding this government program would mean insurance for four million additional kids.

"Fewer and fewer jobs these days are providing health insurance for families," one of the demonstrators told KOLO Eight.

Demonstrators want Heller to support a modified version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or S-Chip for short.

Heller, in a phone interview, says he's in favor of the government program, just not a proposed expansion.

"I just don't want to see six and a half billion go to illegal immigrants that are in this country getting free health care off tax dollars of the American people," Heller said.

Republicans say the new S-Chip bill means those applying for coverage, would have to provide a social security number, which they say might not verify legal status.

The bill would mean 35 billion dollars for health insurance. The battle will play out in DC Thursday when S-Chip comes to a vote, but it's already reached television screens. Heller supporters are asking a TV ad be pulled. The ad says Heller would rather spend a half trillion dollars in Iraq than a fraction of that to keep kids healthy. The group, "Heller for Congress," says of the half trillion claimed in the ad, only about 20 percent of the funding was passed while Heller was in office.

Heller says he did however, side with the President in voting against the S-Chip changes.

Supporters say they don't believe the program will cover those in the country illegally. They say it fills a gap in coverage.

Republicans say it's a move toward socialized medicine and people will dump private insurers for a taxpayer supported program.

Demonstrator Lisa Stiller said: "The studies done show that very, very few families really prefer to quit their jobs or to work less hours to qualify for this."

According to the Associated Press, S-Chip would cover some adults -- reportedly a point of contention.

It's also proposed a tax on tobacco would fund S-Chip. Heller says there simply aren't enough smokers to make that work.

Heller says he plans to vote to sustain President Bush's veto on Thursday.

KOLO Eight will have continuing coverage of the S-Chip debate.