President Barack Obama has signed a bill extending health coverage to 4 million uninsured children — a bill that was twice vetoed by former president George W. Bush for being too costly.
The White House signing ceremony on Wednesday represented a much-needed victory for Obama on health care a day after his administration suffered a major setback with the loss of his nominee to lead his drive for sweeping reform, Tom Daschle.
The bill went to the White House fresh from passage in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, on a vote of 290-135.
The bill calls for spending an additional $32.8 billion on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Lawmakers generated that revenue by raising the federal tobacco tax.
Obama said it is a key step toward his promise of universal health care coverage for all.
The bill’s signing drew praise from health organizations and children’s advocates.
"Congress and the President today have demonstrated a positive commitment to children and health care that we are confident will continue throughout the 111th Congress," said registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association President Martin M. Yadrick.
"Improving access to health care for low-income children has been a major priority in [our] efforts to reduce poverty in America," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "We applaud Congress and President Obama for acting so swiftly on this vital law."