Shutdown Aversion Deal Offers Children’s Health Insurance Fix for Just Three Months

Melanie Lockridge and her 2-year-old daughter Zariyah attend a rally hosted by University of Chicago medical students to call on Congress to reauthorize funding forthe Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) on December 14, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. On September 30, congress let funding for CHIP expire, leaving states to carry the burden for medical expenses of the 9 million children enrolled in the program. Lockeridge's two daughters were enrolled in the program. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Melanie Lockridge and her 2-year-old daughter Zariyah attend a rally hosted by University of Chicago medical students to call on Congress to reauthorize funding forthe Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) on December 14, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

A bill that would grant money to the Children’s Health Insurance Program for three months is making its way through Congress, as part of a deal to avert a government shutdown.

The proposal would keep CHIP funded until March 31, 2018. The program expired in October and has not been renewed since — to much criticism from Democrats, as Republicans ate up the legislative calendar passing a major permanent tax break for corporations.

House Democrats are expected to vote against the deal — a continuing resolution that would keep federal agencies open until the middle of January. The United States government runs out of money, again, on Friday, two weeks after facing a similar deadline.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decried the inadequacy of the funding bill, in a press conference on Thursday morning.

“It’s an interesting week as we prepare to go home soon,” Pelosi said, referring to the holiday break. “I don’t know when that is.”

The Democratic leader had appeared earlier before the House Rules Committee to lobby for the inclusion of the DREAM Act — a bill that would give status to the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

The Obama administration granted the Dreamers a reprieve from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The protections were withdrawn in September by the Trump administration and are set to expire in March.

Despite Pelosi’s efforts, its not clear Senate Democrats have the votes to stop a government funding deal that would exclude the Dream Act — though Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined colleagues in opposition over the Trump administration’s treatment of Dreamers, after it previously appeared she would not.

It’s also not clear yet if Republicans themselves have the votes in the House to pass the short-term government funding deal, according to reporting by The Hill.

Senate Democrats are additionally still examining the overall package weighing their support, as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday morning. The caucus had previously vowed to filibuster any deal that includes backdoor policy riders that would gut environmental protections.

“It’s unclear, still, what the House is going to send us to keep the government open and whether or not it’ll be acceptable to the Senate,” Schumer said.

Schumer made the remarks on the Senate floor, as the House Rules Committee was still meeting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs the support of eight Democrats to avert the threat of a filibuster.

Problems emerging at the first stage of the legislative process indicate Democrats are upset with the minor patch for CHIP and for the fix to community health program funds that also expired in October.

“I know that you put money for the CHIP program, which covers 9 million children, ” said Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the leading Democrat on the House Rules Committee.

“But the pay-for, you take away their vaccine money, is so appalling, I don’t know how anyone with a straight face could vote for that,” she added, in proceedings before the panel.

Slaughter also decried the community health funding provisions, which only authorizes $550 million in funding — enough to last until March, like the money for CHIP.

“When we were defunding Planned Parenthood they said: ‘oh, now community health centers can take care of all that,'” Slaughter remarked. “So now their money is gone.”