White House Objects to Taxing Cigarettes for Children's Health Insurance

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is objecting to how a $35 billion increase in children's health insurance would be paid -- with a 61-cent tax hike on each pack of cigarettes.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says the proposed bill would ironically increase taxes on low-income taxpayers as a way to fund health coverage for low-income individuals. But Montana Senator Max Baucus says he'll stand with America's children instead of standing with big tobacco companies.

Many consider the renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program as the most important health legislation Congress will take up this year.

A bipartisan group of senators has signaled its support for a $35 billion increase, which would bring total funding to $60 billion over five years.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to take up that proposal Wednesday.