President Bush exercised the fourth veto of his administration today, and it's the first one I like: He nixed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that would rely on an unfair, highly regressive cigarette tax increase while extending benefits to families that are far from poor:
Speaking in Pennsylvania, Bush said he vetoed the bill because it was a step toward "federalizing" medicine and inappropriately expanded the program beyond its focus on helping poor children.
"I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system. I do want Republicans and Democrats to come together to support a bill that focuses on the poorer children," the president said, adding the government's policy should be to help people find private insurance.
Bush does not get points for consistency. If he's against federalization of health care and thinks taxpayer-funded medical benefits should be means-tested, how can he possibly justify the enormous expansion of Medicare caused by the prescription drug coverage he championed, under which I will one day be subsidizing Bill Gates' Lipitor? But he's vetoing this bill mostly for the right reasons, at the risk of looking like a stingy child hater. By contrast, Bush vetoed expanded federal funding for stem cell research (twice) based on a dubious moral distinction, rather than respect for constitutional limits on federal powers. And he vetoed Democrats' attempt to make funding for the Iraq war contingent on some sort of exit plan because he's committed to continuing the occupation indefinitely—also a mistake, in my view, and one that will prove much more consequential than the strings attached to federal research money.