Why won’t the Democrats vote for CHIP funding?

House Republicans have voted several times now to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) so that children across the country can get the care they need. They will do so (again) later this week.

Unfortunately, Democrats are threatening (again) to oppose this effort. To push back on this heartless attempt to play politics, House Republicans who represent states that are about to  run out of CHIP funding held a press conference and called on the Democrats to stop holding this money hostage.

Here’s what they had to say at the press conference on Capitol Hill late this afternoon:

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA):

“We have a major deadline that is coming up, and this is not an arbitrary deadline. This is a real deadline that many states are facing. We have representatives from many of those states — Washington, Kentucky, Alabama, Oregon, Louisiana, Virginia — CHIP funding is going to run out. For 60,000 children in Washington state and 9 million children across the country, it is urgent that we fix this.

“The CR, the continuing resolution, funds CHIP for six years. Let me say that again: six years. It’s the longest extension of CHIP in the history of this program.

“Nearly all of the Democrats, unfortunately in the House, have voted against CHIP three times now. They’ve pushed us to this critical deadline when the government funding runs out on Friday. And now they’re threatening to hold this up over DACA.

No just let me be clear: I want a DACA fix, too. I’m disappointed that we don’t have one. We have until March. There’s no good reason to punish children today by keeping Congress from passing the CHIP authorization. By voting against this continuing resolution, not only are they voting to shut down the government, they’re voting to deny children access to critical health care when they need it.

“It’s time for Republicans and Democrats, across the board, to stop obstruction, to stop the games. Let’s join together to get this done. Children’s health care should not be a partisan issue, and not a political game.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR):

“The Energy and Commerce Committee went through regular order, through the subcommittee, the full committee, and then the House floor to pass a five-year extension of CHIP that was fully funded. That was the most generous extension of CHIP in its lifetime and second-longest extension. We also included Community Health Center funding for two years…we put together a package, we did our work, and we passed it. That’s in the Senate. We have been waiting ever since to get that passed and they can’t find Democrats in the Senate to get this done.

“In the meantime, our states have been struggling. In my state of Oregon, 122,700 children and pregnant women live in fear that this program could end, the money could run out. My state chose to pre-fund it so that there is some certainty out there, but even that is beginning to stretch the budget….

“Look, the party that thinks a $1,000 or $2,000 bonus to a hardworking family is ‘crumbs’ is doing a pretty crummy thing to children and pregnant women by not passing the extension of CHIP.

“And each step of the way, Democrats asked me to slow the process and delay. And I did. That’s why it didn’t get done by September 30. But we did pass a bill eventually that was fully-funded. By the way, one of the biggest pay-fors there was an Obama pay-for, that we used a part of, that said wealthy Americans making $500,000 a year could pay $137 more for their Medicare so that we could use the funds to pay for CHIP. We thought that was responsible. President Obama proposed a much bigger pay-for like that in his budgets. [Democrats] would not go along with that. We could not reach any agreement with the Senate, and here we are today.  

“Now we have an opportunity again to fully fund CHIP and with the change in the law and the change in the CBO forecast, we can now do six years fully funding CHIP without any pay-for.

“This is the time to act. We call on Democrats to join us this time. I can’t imagine, since pay-fors aren’t an issue, what the issue they have against children and pregnant women being covered by CHIP and getting this resolved now. It’s time. Enough’s enough.”

Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX):

“No surprise that CHIP ran out of funding on September 30. Everyone knew it was coming. I want to stress that we did our work in the subcommittee–we did our work in the full committee–and Chairman Walden saw to that. …

To me, it’s unbelievable — it’s unforgivable — that it has not passed at this point.  We have 400,000 kids in Texas who are dependent upon this.  … It is an urgent issue in the state of Texas.  … There’s no good reason to vote against this bill.  If the discouragement before was over the offsets, that has been settled with the new CBO Score.  So we need to get this done, do our work, get it over to the Senate, and then they have to act this time.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA):

“Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to also address the CHIP legislation. This is something we have always had bipartisan agreement on. We’ve had violent agreement on this. This is something year after year we come together and we support.

“My governor last month, Governor McAuliffe before he left, he’s Governor of Virginia, his staff was calling my office saying they wanted a five-year reauthorization, so we not only said yes to that, we added an extra year, so we have a six year reauthorization here.

“So I really would stress how important it is for all of my colleagues to take yes for an answer. When we have issues that we strongly agree on and that there isn’t any contention on, let’s not try and create arguments where they don’t exist.”

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL):

“Thank you so much, and I thank Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers for holding this press conference here this evening to shed light on the very unfortunate games that are being played with the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding today here in Congress.

“Many of the families that I represent in Alabama depend on CHIP funding to make sure that their children have access to health care. We were talking before we came in about when I was a young lawyer practicing. I had a single parent in my office who was going through some rough times in her life who desperately needed to make sure that her children had access to health care. I remember that conversation often as this debate has taken shape in Congress.

“I know that there are many many others all across this country who would suffer tremendously if CHIP funding were to expire. I’ve also been hearing directly from our governor in this great state of Alabama and many state representatives who are working diligently to craft a budget on the state level and they are depending on Congress to get this done.

“That’s why it is incredibly disheartening that some Democrats are play party politics with Children’s health insurance. This of all times is not the time to play games. It’s my sincere hope that this will stop now and that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us in working to give health insurance certainty to families in Alabama and all across this country. Now is not the time for party politics. Now is the time for action.”

Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-LA):

“CHIP is a program that funds the most poor and the very sick children of our society. I am a physician in rural America, rural Louisiana, where we have over 120,000 CHIP recipients. It is life saving, it is economically saving because these children are treated in an outpatient setting before they end up in the hospital.  How we have a debate on this is unbelievable.  It’s unconscionable. And when I see The Left that say they’re going to vote ‘no’ I simply ask, ‘How can you do this? How can you not give money to the most vulnerable, the most poorest, and the most sickest of our American society?”