Governor Rick Perry, Senate Republicans Oppose CHIP Expansion

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Key Point: The Senate already “supported” CHIP legislation 29-2, on the amendment to Rep. Pierson's bill. It only takes 4/5 of the Senate to pull Rep. Coleman's bill out of Senator Ogden's committee and bring it to the House floor. 29/31 > 4/5. It's entirely up to Senate Republicans — are they willing to put children's health care first, or are they going to stand by Rick Perry and kill expansion of CHIP?

Yesterday, Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke out against CHIP expansion legislation — possibly even threatening a veto — at the same time that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Senate Republicans attempted to dishonestly derail any hopes of CHIP expansion legislation passing this session.

The AP story that ran in the Houston Chroncile (“Perry opposes CHIP expansion plan”) has the quote (emphasis added):

“No. I would probably not be in favor of that expansion even if it came to my desk. I think the members know that,” Perry said. “That is not what I consider to be a piece of legislation that has the vast support of the people of the state of Texas.”

The “vast support of the people of Texas” don't support the plan? CHIP has been one of the winningest issues for Texas Democrats over the past six years. Moreover, a poll last November by a Republican research firm, Hill Research Consultants, had the following information:

  • Helping “children access quality healthcare” is the top priority of 18% of registered voters in TX, 2nd highest of any issue.
  • In a re-elect question on Republican elected officials, 54% of registered voters said they would “give Democrats a chance.”
  • Children's healthcare is the top priority of 85% of those regustered voters who would “give Democrats a chance.”

Moreover, the House and Senate have already passed versions of the legislation. The Senate passed legislation by Senator Averitt, while the House passed legislation by State Rep. Garnet Coleman. The Senate, in an attempt to be cute, attached Sen. Averitt's version of the legislation to a House bill that had was not about CHIP — therefore, it would have been struck down on a point of order.

The House, not surprisingly, said, “um, no, we can't do that” — and Rick Casey, in his column in today's Houston Chronicle titled, “CHIP charade also failed test of character” calls out the Senate Republicans for their nonsense:

But Dewhurst and Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, the powerful Finance chairman who declined to call a committee meeting to report out Coleman’s bill, didn’t need to take a chance, and they knew it. Both are veterans familiar with the House rules.

What’s more, when Dewhurst told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he was “looking for a vehicle” for CHIP expansion, he received some help.

Journalist Harvey Kronberg, whose online “Quorum Report” is must reading in the capital, quickly posted an item pointing out, as he had earlier in the day, that Coleman’s bill was available in the Finance Committee. […]

Was it a deliberate charade or callous stupidity?

Does it matter, since Gov. Rick Perry appeared ready to veto the bill anyway?

Yes, it matters. It was a test of either character or competence. Dewhurst and Ogden flunked.

The Senate already “supported” putting the CHIP legislation on the dead legislation 29-2. It only takes 4/5 of the Senate to pull Rep. Coleman's bill out of Senator Ogden's committee and bring it to the House floor. 29/31 > 4/5. 

The Senate Republicans have already shown that they want the CHIP legislation. There is already a 4/5 majority that have voted for it. There's absolutely no reason, whatsoever, for Senate Republicans not to pull Rep. Coleman's bill out of committee, amend Sen. Averitt's bill to it, and send it back to the House.

If there is no CHIP expansion bill, Governor Perry's veto threat and the complete “charade [of]callous stupiditiy” exercised by Senate Republicans are squarely to blame. Dewhurst was the one that wanted to kill CHIP in 2007; he's trying to do it again.

Will the Senate Republicans block the CHIP expansion bill? That may be the biggest issue of today. Stay tuned.


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Ridiculous
    For a family of three, the federal poverty line is roughly $18,310.  The expansion of CHIP would cover people that make three times this amount.  Do people who think that Governor Perry is an evil person for not supporting this bill believe that a family of three making $55,000 deserves to be on the governments bill?  It is easy to demonize Governor Perry, but where does it end?  If we quadruple it in the next couple of years, does a family of three making almost $70,000 a year, need the government to subsidize them?  The problem with the Democratic party of today is it feels that the government is the solution to every problem.  However, it is an easy way to ensure that you have votes.  Just make every voter dependent on the government.    

  2. Ridiculous?
    Put your pencil and pad to work: determine the take-home from that amount, deduct usual and customary non-discretionary living costs, then compare the remainder with the cost of hospitalizing a child. I think that you will see the point to expanding eligibility.

    • Texun
      Are you honestly going to tell me that a family of three cannot live off $55,000 a year?  They will have to make sacrifices, but that is life.  It is not easy, and it is not fair.  My wife and I are both students and we pay roughly $2,000 per year for health insurance.  This is with no jobs (we are in law school) and no help from our parents.  We have to forego many things in our life to ensure that we have adequate healthcare, but to quote my grandmother, “you do what you go to do.”  Further, why are we hospitalizing a child?  That is a rare and extreme case.  We should not legislate for the rarest case.  If a family does have to hospitalize a child, and would otherwise go bankrupt because of the costs, then there should be some avenue of support for the family.  However, this type of assistance should be after the fact, not a blanket service on the front end, on the off chance that a child may have to be hospitalized.  This would keep costs lower and still help those families most in need.

      • You got it backwards
        Reb, one of CHIP's major benefits is that it keeps kids OUT of emergency rooms.  For example, a child sick with a respiratory infection is a lot less likely to end up in the hospital with pneumonia if he or she gets early treatment by a doctor.

        An emergency room visit and a few days in a hospital can cost thousands of dollars.  A doctor visit is obviously far cheaper.

        And remember this: CHIP is not welfare.  The program — with more than 2/3 of its funds coming from the feds — allows these working families to purchase insurance.

        In other words, it gets them into the system and on the road to responsibility.  And oh yeah, healthier kids.

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