Washington D.C. – During the presidential campaign then-candidate Sen. Obama lobbied heavily for State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, a piece of legislation twice vetoed by former president Bush. Less than 3 weeks into his presidency Obama made good on his campaign pledge and reauthorized the program. He muted the cries of critics who contended the program unduly added layers of redundancy to already burgeoning federal deficits by noting the fact that the program would be paid for by steep hikes on taxes of tobacco products.
However, this past week the SCHIP program, one of Obama’s few legislative victories in an increasingly troubled political climate, may be coming apart at the seams. At issue is the centerpiece for paying for the beleagured program. With a stroke of the pen the president signed into law some of the most stringent laws regulating tobacco aimed at curbing cigarette usage.
Supporters of the SCHIP program called it a rank betrayal of everything the senator had worked for. “Where are we supposed to get the funding?” said Gary Limon, who applied to put his son Freddy into SCHIP. “After how hard Sen. Obama campaigned for this program I can’t believe the president would betray him like this.”
Indeed, anger at the president was profound but support for Obama remained high. “Obama knows what he’s doing; it’s the president I don’t trust,” proclaimed long-time democrat and public assistance recipient Janice St. Claire.
Impromptu protests formed formed around the country. “Let’s face facts: we need as many new smokers as we can get to fund SCHIP,” howled one speaker. With that the crowd began pelting passer-by with cigarettes while chanting, “Do it for the children!” Police had to be called in and had to disperse the unruly crowd with air fresheners. Two protesters were later seen being lead away with nicotine patches.
“I don’t know what to do,” Ms. St. Claire added. “Since this new law has come out my kids don’t have insurance and I’ve put on 20 pounds.”