Monday, October 15, 2007

USA Today - Joe feels heat over SCHIP Veto

House Republicans feel heat in wake of SCHIP veto

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By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - The scarecrows adorning Main Street in this affluent Detroit suburb are symbolic of the frightening times ahead for Rep. Joe Knollenberg and other Republicans as they prepare to block a broad expansion of children's health insurance this week.
On television and radio, in phone calls and e-mails, proponents of the five-year, $35 billion increase are pressuring about 20 Republicans to switch sides and help override President Bush's veto. The full-court press includes preachers, rock stars such as Paul Simon and sick kids in an effort to sway the result - or the next election.

Few Republicans have more to fear than Knollenberg, a former insurance agent whose nearly 15-year grip on Michigan's 9th Congressional District has never been as weak. His customary double-digit victories shrunk to 5 percentage points in 2006. Now, he's saddled with an increasingly unpopular war and president. Being perceived as voting against kids doesn't help.
That includes Knollenberg, at 73 a grandfatherly figure who seems ill-suited for in-your-face politics. He gets plenty of that here from Bruce Fealk, a local activist with the liberal group
When Knollenberg ventured inside Lytle Pharmacy on Saturday to shake hands, Fealk was waiting. "When are you going to end the war, Joe?" said Fealk, wearing a white T-shirt that read, "ENOUGH."
Former state senator and lottery commissioner Gary Peters, a Democrat, has $200,000 in the bank, about 25% of Knollenberg's amount. Nancy Skinner, Knollenberg's Democratic challenger in 2006, is likely to announce her candidacy Tuesday. Peters insists the district "has been continually trending more Democratic."
Today, Peters is launching a "Little Red Wagon Campaign" supporting the children's health expansion. It urges people to download a sketch from his website, color it and send it to Knollenberg.

Personal stakes

Knollenberg will have none of that. Although the bill coming back to the House on Thursday won support from 45 Republicans last month, he calls it "the Pelosi health care bill" after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. It's "a pile of loose parts that depends on 22 million new smokers in America to pay for taxpayer-funded health benefits for illegal immigrants," he says.
Those arguments are enough to convince some people. "Thanks for your opposition," Greg Bruder called out along Main Street here Saturday. "It was a miserable bill." Bruder sums up the debate as "socialism vs. independence."
Others side with Democrats. At the St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 70-year-old Donna Stenton says $35 billion over five years pales compared with the costs of the Iraq war. "I have a feeling that a lot of Republicans better watch out," she says.

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