Cornyn: Health Insurance for Texas Kids Should Take Priority Over Funding for Earmarks

WASHINGTON-U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, expressed his disappointment today with the vote by a majority of Senators to block an amendment that would have required Congress to prioritize providing health care for children over earmarked projects for members of Congress.  The Senate voted 68 to 26 to table, or end consideration of, the "The Children's Health Care First Act" this afternoon.

"We must continue working together to improve access to health care.  So it's disappointing that many of my colleagues in the Senate would choose to fund their own earmarked projects, instead of first addressing the critical issue of providing health insurance for children in Texas and across the country," U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said today.  "This is yet another example of misplaced priorities and missed opportunities by the new majority in Congress.  Last week, they played politics with the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and this week they chose earmarks over health insurance for our children.  Working to ensure that Texas children have access to quality health insurance will continue to be a top priority for me in the U.S. Senate."

The Senate this week is considering the annual appropriations bill funding the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. Sen. Cornyn voted in support of an amendment, offered by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to prohibit any earmarks in the bill to be funded until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certifies that all children in the U.S. under the age of 18 are insured by a private or public health insurance plan.

The Office of Management & Budget estimates that in this appropriations bill alone there are 1,056 earmarks totaling $643.4 million.  Estimates on the number of remaining uninsured children vary. Census data reports that there were approximately 8 million children without health insurance at some point in 2005. In the State of Texas alone, there are roughly 500,000 Medicaid-eligible children who are not covered by Medicaid and an additional 200,000 SCHIP-eligible children -- up to 200 percent of poverty level -- who are not signed up for that program.

Additional Background:

  • On October 11th, Sen. Cornyn sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging them to reconsider their decision to shutdown negotiations on SCHIP. Senator Cornyn wrote, in part, "If you believe that covering low-income children in Texas and across the country, requires more than the 40 percent funding increase that Republicans have introduced, I am more than willing to work with you to find a reasonable, bipartisan solution. But, reauthorization of SCHIP is too important to be used as a political pawn for campaign purposes."
  • Last week, the House failed to override the President's veto of the Democrats' original proposal, yet, Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi have thus far indicated that they will still refuse to negotiate with the President on SCHIP.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee's Airland subcommittee.