Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., is one of nine Republicans being targeted by one of the country's largest unions over his intention to support President Bush's veto of a federally funded children's health insurance program.
The Service Employees International Union will begin running television ads in Oregon this week that paint Walden and Bush as coconspirators, suggesting that "Bush and Walden would rather send half-a-trillion to Iraq than spend a fraction of that here at home to keep our kids healthy."
More than 6 million children nationwide participate in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which was created a decade ago to subsidize health coverage for families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.
The House and Senate approved legislation that would expand SCHIP, raising the annual cost from $5 billion to $12 billion, to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by increasing the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.
But Bush vetoed the bill, citing the program's cost and its likelihood to motivate people now covered in the private sector to switch to government coverage. Democrats and their allies are now working to round up enough Republicans to overcome the veto in the House of Representatives.
Andrew Whelan, a Walden spokesman, said there was "no chance" the ad campaign would change Walden's mind.
In a statement posted on his web site, Walden says he "feels strongly that Congress must reauthorize SCHIP." But he goes on to criticize what he called the bill's targeting of "middle class children, many of whom already have health insurance."
Walden also suggests that the program is financially unsustainable and there wasn't sufficient time to consider the proposal, though dozens of his fellow Republicans have joined with Democrats to support the expansion.
Besides Walden, the SEIU ad also targets Republican members of Congress from Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Wyoming and New York.
Union runs ad targeting Walden over SCHIP vote