McConnell's tobacco ties
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) surprised observers by coming out against legislation that would expand state-based health insurance for children by taxing tobacco.
David Donnelly of campaignmoney.org notes that McConnell has received a lot of money from the tobacco industry over the course of his career, $257, 725. That's more than any other sitting senator except Richard Burr (R-NC).
Frankly, I'm not convinced that a tobacco tax is the best way to fund S-CHIP. As Mark Kleiman says, a tobacco tax burdens old, poor smokers for the sake of child health insurance. Increasing the cost of cigarettes might also have other unintended consequences such as an increase in smuggling.
I would rather see the extra CHIP money come from general revenue, but that option isn't on the table yet.
The perfect is the enemy of the good. The benefits of extending health insurance to millions of American children appear to outweigh the disadvantages of singling out smokers to pick up the tab.
The Republicans are terrified of this initiative because they rightly see it as an incremental step towards single-payer health care. That possibility itself is a reason to support the S-CHIP legislation. We can work out a better funding scheme for a larger and more ambitious program in the future.