WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Wednesday passed a bill that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program by more than $32 billion over five years.
The bill, which is expected to be considered by the Senate next week, saw the 289-139 vote break along party lines, CNN reported.
President-elect Barack Obama, who stressed his support for an expansion of the children's insurance program during his presidential bid, is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk, CNN said.
The program covers more than 6 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but who can't afford private insurance.
Supporters say the legislation would extend the program to another 4 million additional children, paying for it with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.
Opponents argued, among other things, that the bill discriminates against physician-owned specialty hospitals, would allow undocumented immigrants to illegally access taxpayer-financed healthcare and is insufficiently funded.
President George Bush vetoed two similar bills in 2007, arguing that the measures would have encouraged families to abandon the private market for the federally funded, state-run program. Both vetoes were sustained.