President vetoes HHS bill that includes ONCHIT funding

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President Bush on Tuesday vetoed the Labor-HHS-Education bill, HR 3043, which would have provided approximately $66.2 million in funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) for the upcoming fiscal year.

According to a White House letter to the House of Representatives, Bush said he vetoed the bill because it would provide $150.7 billion in discretionary spending—$9.8 billion more than he proposed.

“This year, Congress plans to overspend my budget by $22 billion, of which $10 billion is for increases in this bill. Healthcare, education, job training and other goals can be achieved without this excessive spending if Congress sets priorities,” said Bush.

The President also on Tuesday signed into law the Defense appropriations bill, HR 3222, which provides $459.3 billion in discretionary funding—$3.5 billion less than his budget request and $39.7 billion more than fiscal 2007 spending.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., responded to the veto in a floor speech on Tuesday, saying, “This morning the President signed a Defense appropriations bill that includes a 10 percent increase in funding compared to last year. But he vetoed a bill that includes an increase half that big that would fund cancer research, investments in our schools, job training and protections for our workers.”

The healthcare industry was also quick to respond when Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, on Tuesday said that “along with funding to expand educational opportunities and invest in job training, the bipartisan bill passed by Congress would provide support for core public health programs such as preventing obesity and combating infectious disease, as well as training public health and medical professionals.”

The HHS bill was originally bundled with the Defense appropriations bill, but they were split Friday after Senate Democrats failed to obtain the required 60 votes to keep the two bills combined (46-47).