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Pelosi 'praying' Bush doesn't veto children's health insurance bill

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  • House Speaker Pelosi "praying" that president has change of heart on bill
  • Measure expanding kids' health insurance program passed Senate
  • Bush objects to measure expanding coverage beyond just poor children
  • White House says expansion would cover children from middle-class families
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she is "praying" that President Bush has a change of heart and does not veto a bipartisan children's health insurance bill that he has labeled an unwarranted expansion of government-run health insurance.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauds after signing the State Children's Health Insurance legislation Friday.

"The tide is going a different way than a presidential veto would reflect," Pelosi, a California Democrat, said. "It was with great friendship that I reached out to the president this morning to say that I was still praying that he would have a change of heart and sign this legislation."

"I think I have to pray a little harder, but I will not give up," Pelosi said.

Pelosi's comments came a day after the Senate voted 67-29 for the measure, which would expand the State Children's Health Insurance program by up to 4 million children.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino on Friday said Bush still intends to veto the bill when it arrives at his desk. Perino also said the disagreement between Congress and the White House was a simple policy difference, not "about who cares about children more than the other."

"The president is saying, 'Let's take care of the neediest children first, let's not put scarce federal dollars toward a program that was meant for the poorest children and let it creep up to middle-income families with incomes up to $83,000 a year,' " Perino said.

Bush and many Republicans contend that the program's original intent -- to give parents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance coverage for their children -- would be changed under the current bill, prompting parents to wind up dropping private coverage their children already have to get cheaper coverage under the bill.

Perino also objected that the rhetoric surrounding the SCHIP bill has become too heated.

"I think it is preposterous for people to suggest the president of the United States doesn't care about children, that he wants children to suffer," Perino said.

The bill enjoys bipartisan support. Eighteen Republican senators Thursday night joined all the Democrats in voting for expanding the popular program from its current annual budget of $5 billion to $12 billion for the next five years.

Four senators -- Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Sam Brownback of Kansas and Democrats Joseph Biden of Delaware and Barack Obama of Illinois -- did not vote.

With the current program scheduled to expire Saturday, the White House encouraged Congress to send the president a continuing resolution extending the program.

"We should take this time to arrive at a more rational, bipartisan SCHIP reauthorization bill that focuses on children in poor families who don't currently have insurance, rather than raising taxes to cover people who already have private insurance," Perino added.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was among those Republicans who split from the president. "It's very difficult for me to be against a man I care so much for," he told his colleagues on the Senate floor prior to the vote. "It's unfortunate that the president has chosen to be on what, to me, is clearly the wrong side of this issue."

Though 67 votes in the 100-person chamber would suffice to overturn a veto, the House version, which was approved Tuesday, fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Life/Health InsuranceNancy Pelosi

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