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SCHIP Bill Set for Week of Action in Senate

By Bart Jansen, CQ Staff

JANUARY 23, 2009 -- Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted Friday that the Senate would approve an expansion of children's health insurance by the end of next week, despite some GOP opposition to immigration-related provisions.

"It's about taking care of children," the Nevada Democrat said at a news conference with Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W. Va., and a dozen youths. "We're going to start working on this Monday and pass this bill next week."

The Finance Committee approved the bill Jan. 15. It aims to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a Medicaid program for children in poor families, by providing care to 4 million more children, for a total of 11 million. The $31.5 billion expansion would be funded by a 61-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes.

As approved by the committee, the measure also would allow states to begin offering dental insurance under SCHIP.

In the Finance markup, Republican complaints focused on providing care to the children of illegal immigrants. The bill would loosen citizenship and residency requirements for eligibility. A Rockefeller amendment adopted by the panel would allow legal immigrants and new citizens into the program without the standard five-year waiting period.

"Any time you talk about immigration, the red flags start waving," Reid said. But he vowed that the Senate would complete the bill by the end of the week, because debate will begin Feb. 2 on economic stimulus legislation (S 1).<?p>

Floor debate is scheduled to begin Monday after a 6 p.m. vote on nominee Timothy F. Geithner to become Treasury secretary.

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