TUPELO – Voting to re-authorize the State Children’s Health Program, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers says, has been the highlight of his first 12 months in office.
“I was pleased to support SCHIP,” he said in an interview with the Daily Journal.
Childers marks his first anniversary as 1st District congressman on Wednesday.
SCHIP was established by the federal government in 1997 to provide health insurance to children in families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Congress voted earlier this year to expand coverage and reauthorize the program until 2013.
“What kind of a nation are we if we won’t support our children who have less fortunate parents?” asked Childers.
On May 20, 2008, the Booneville businessman and former Prentiss County chancery clerk took the oath of office in the well of the U.S. House after five months of a heated political campaign that covered four elections – the Democratic Party primary, a runoff and a special election and runoff.
He then turned around seven months later and won the general election for a two-year term.
Childers succeeded Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, who resigned the post when Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him U.S. senator.
Childers strongly rejects predictions by some national pundits that he’ll become a Republican to avoid that party’s crosshairs when he seeks re-election in 2010 in the previously GOP district.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
“I’m a Southern Democrat – I vote what’s best for Mississippi,” which may not fit neatly into a party cookie-cutter, he noted.
Tupelo’s state Sen. Alan Nunnelee is one Republican name circulating as a possible opponent. Nunnelee has said he’s considering a race for Congress as well as future options in state government.
Reflecting on the past year, Childers says the deep partisanship between Democrats and Republicans is probably his biggest disappointment.
“Oh, I knew I wasn’t walking into everybody singing ‘Kumbaya,’ ” he said, “But I’ve seen friends sponsor something and then vote against it because somebody told them to.
“I’m not going to do that – it’s wrong, both ways.”
The pro-life, pro-gun Democrat gives President Obama high marks for pushing health care reform and acting decisively to deal with the nation’s economic crisis.
But Childers expresses disappointment that the president’s budget lacked strong cuts in some areas, saying lean times will take across-the-board cuts to be fair.
He’s optimistic health care reform is on the way: “This is the year to make it happen. I don’t think it will be a radical approach.
“And we must have both parties at the table.”
A member of the conservative Blue Dog Democratic coalition, he praised the group of 51 for inviting all factions to talk about the issue.
Childers points to his campaign promise to be an independent voter, saying that last week, in rankings of 257 House Democrats who voted their party line, he was near the bottom at No. 255.
“I just don’t think my party or the other party is right all the time.”
He notes he’s co-chairing the Rural Caucus in the House to ensure that rural issues aren’t left behind when Congress takes up health care, energy, financial and other reforms.
About his re-election chances, Childers said, “This seat does not belong to a political party. My party understands that.
“And no one in this state will work harder than I will to earn it again.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal