News Room

October 4, 2007

"When George Bush ran for President, he promised compassionate conservatism. Here, along the Border, we know too well what that means. For us, it means 'besos y buena suerte.'"

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,


When George Bush ran Texas, we learned early on what "compassionate conservatism" means. In 2003, conservatives kicked 200,000 Texas children off CHIP. Along with Medicaid cuts, over 1 million Texans children lost care.

In El Paso, we felt it the most. Sadly, ours is the least insured large city in America.

As a result, Texas returned nearly $1 billion dollars to the US government to cover kids in other states. Texas has more than one million children with no health insurance. Texas covers fewer children with health insurance than any state in the US.  In 2003, cuts to kids hurt whole regions.

Now, as President, George Bush has vetoed CHIP.  When he ran for President, he promised compassionate conservatism. Here, along the Border, we know too well what that means.

For us, it means ‘besos y buena suerte.'

The CHIP expansion bill would have covered 10 million American children at a cost of $12 billion a year to the federal government.  That's a fraction of the $720 billion Bush rammed through Congress in Medicare Part D; and the $450 billion spent so far fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In America, we believe in our children. Whether poor or rich, brown or white, we believe in educating young minds and launching them in life with the chance to succeed.

That is the American Way.  Long ago, our country made a commitment to our children's minds—through public schools, libraries and other programs.  Today, we have a moral obligation to invest in their physical health as well.

Yet, 9 million American children were left without health insurance in 2006.  Today, in Texas, 1 in 5 children don't see a doctor when they get sick.  They don't get medication.  They stay home.

As in the case of Devante Johnson, sometimes these children die.  Fourteen-year-old Devante Johnson, from Houston, had advanced kidney cancer.    For years, Devante and his two younger brothers had been covered.  But in 2006, a worker believed they no longer qualified and their paperwork got lost between Medicaid and CHIP.  For four months Devante was without health insurance, as state employees attempted to reinstate his coverage.

During this time, Devante could no longer receive regular treatment and had to rely solely on clinical trials for care.  It wasn’t until a state legislator intervened that Devante’s coverage was reinstated.  But it was too late.  Devante died on March 1, 2007.

Support for expanding CHIP is broad and deep: an ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that 81% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans support it. Why? Because CHIP works.  It began in 1997 with bipartisan support.  Over the past 10 years, 6.6 million children have been covered.

In the Texas Senate, every single lawmaker voted to pass CHIP.  In D.C., the CHIP bill that Bush vetoed was one that 18 Senate Republicans voted to pass. Unless it is restored before it expires November 16, almost 7 million children will lose their insurance coverage.

In El Paso, with the cuts of 2003, and the veto of 2007, families have lost faith that lawmakers care.

What can you do? First, call John Cornyn. He was one of 29 Senate Republicans who voted against CHIP.  Tell him what you think.  Then, call your congressman. Ask him or her to vote for children too.

Finally, go vote—for our children, elections are literally a matter of life or death.

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