The Magazine

The Republicans' Best Weapon

It's Obama himself.

Feb 2, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 19 • By FRED BARNES
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Republicans might well have invoked Obama when Democrats pulled off an egregious act of partisanship on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, aka S-chip. Last year, Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise on S-chip, and it cleared the finance committee, 17-4. President Bush ultimately vetoed the bill.

Without consulting Republicans, Democrats drafted a new bill several weeks ago, stripping out the relatively minor items that had made S-chip acceptable to Republicans. These included a waiting period for children of immigrants and a measure to limit the number of children lured off private insurance. S-chip not only got more expensive, but children from families in New York and New Jersey earning more than 300 percent of the poverty line ($66,150 for a family of four) would now be eligible.

Expanding S-chip is one of Obama's top priorities. If he's unhappy with the way the new bill was put together, he hasn't said so. That may be because Republicans haven't yelled loudly enough to make it an issue. They should. Democrats may regard bipartisanship as unnecessary. But the public loves it.

The point isn't that S-chip could be stopped. That's not likely. And a laminated copy of Obama's inaugural would be too unwieldy to carry around. No, the point is that Republicans in Congress aren't helpless or powerless. They can make the best of a bad situation. And who knows? The situation might get better.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.