Underplayed Story of the Day

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Back on A4 of the Washington Post, we find that the states are preparing contingency plans as the President and Congress remain at odds over SCHIP. The House vote to try to override Bush’s veto is now expected on Thursday, but leaders there still look short of the votes they need. Meanwhile, a short-term fix keeps the funding going until mid-November. And then?:

At current funding levels, 21 states would run out of money before the end of the fiscal year next September, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In California, which would run out in June, state SCHIP director Lesley Cummings on Friday recommended adopting emergency regulations that would allow state officials to establish a waiting list and a process for cutting off some of the 830,000 children on the state’s $1.3 billion-a-year program.

“It’s really critical that people understand that the amount of money this program has had in the past just is not sufficient for the program we’ve built and the caseload we now have,” she said.

In Louisiana, as many as 37,000 of the 111,000 children on SCHIP might have to be cut to keep the program afloat, said J. Ruth Kennedy, the state’s SCHIP director. In Georgia, which already has an enrollment cap of 295,000, officials are considering tightening eligibility requirements, reducing enrollment and limiting dental benefits, said Rhonda Medows, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Community Health.

UPDATE: Thanks, commenter Sy, for this link to James Carroll’s story in the Louisville Courier-Journal regarding the role that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart played in urging reporters to jump on the Graeme Frost story.

This is a subplot that has gotten a lot of discussion here and elsewhere. I was not a recipient of Stewart’s e-mail, but truthfully, wouldn’t have been terribly shocked by it if I had been. This is the kind of thing that reporters in Washington see all the time. Sometimes, these are valid tips. It is the responsibility of the journalist to check them out and decide for themselves whether to follow up with a story. In this case, with few exceptions, most journalists saw the smear for precisely what it was–and wrote it that way.

As for Stewart, I have had few dealings with him in the past, but my colleagues who talk to him more frequently regard him well. He screwed up on this one, and admits it. He also claims that he tried to rectify it by sending out a follow-up e-mail to the same reporters alerting them to the fact that that kid was “legit.” I suspect that the next time something like this happens, Stewart won’t be so quick to hit the Send button.