The Senate late Thursday approved adding 4 million children to a popular health program—with enough votes to override a veto threatened by President Bush. The House version, however, passed shy of the two-thirds majority needed to win a veto showdown over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“The stage is set for one of the most significant domestic policy showdowns of the Bush presidency,” said Martin Kady II in The Politico’s The Crypt blog. Democrats and “a growing number of Republicans” see the $35-billion expansion of the program as “an important moment in American health care policy” because it would cover nearly half of the uninsured kids in the U.S. But Bush and his supporters see this as a giant step toward federalized health care, and have vowed to stop it.

Thank goodness someone’s willing to oppose this giant new entitlement, said David Brooks in The New York Times (free registration). This boondoggle has “all sorts of corruptions and dishonesties built in.” It encourages states to “ramp up benefits” because taxpayers elsewhere will pay. It “entices children out of private insurance and into public insurance.” And it pays for itself by raising taxes on smokers (who are typically poor), which is a “fundraising mechanism that is cowardly in the extreme.”

Please, said The Houston Chronicle in an editorial, “championing the right of the poor to cheap cigarettes while opposing affordable medical insurance for their children is not a rational public health policy.” And the goal is to make sure we don't provide health insurance for too many children—including some from “higher-income families”? Bush should consider the welfare of all the uninsured kids out there, and sign this bill.

Bush "claims" children's health care "as his priority," said Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), so why is he threatening to veto a bill that benefits "targets uninsured kids more efficiently than the alternative Bush has touted"?

This is the "first skirmish" in the Democrats' "new battle for universal coverage," said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post (free registration).

Bush proposed expanding the program, a little, but Democrats are insisting on turning this program into a huge "waste" that will "wreck" the private insurance market, " said Power Line.