The Children’s Health Insurance Plan remains without funding as a temporary government funding bill that included a 6-year extension of the popular bipartisan program failed to garner enough support in the Senate.
On Jan. 19, senators voted 50-49 in favor of a procedural motion to end debate and formally consider the temporary funding bill, short of the 60 votes needed to clear that hurdle.
The vote did not fall on strict party lines: Five Democratic senators voted in favor of the continuing resolution ( H.R. 195 ) to temporarily fund the government until Feb. 16, and five Republican senators voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against the funding bill so that he could reintroduce it later.
Other Republican senators who voted against the bill were Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Democratic senators who voted for the bill were Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
The continuing resolution also featured a few other health care provisions, including delays to the medical device tax and the so-called Cadillac tax on high-valued health insurance plans offered by employers.
In comments made on the Senate floor prior to the vote, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called out Democrats for failing to pass the bill.
“There’s really nothing wrong with the substance of the bill, Mr. President, or at least very few of our Democratic colleagues are complaining about what’s actually in the bill” he said. “Instead, they’re complaining about what’s not in it.”
Democrats made their stand on the absence of language on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which addresses the immigration status of young people – often called Dreamers – who were brought to this country illegally as children.
Democrats also complained that funding for community health centers was not included.
Sen. Hatch, one of the original authors of the CHIP authorizing legislation, continued to argue for the program and the overall funding bill.
“This new bill before us would reauthorize CHIP for 6 six years,” he noted. “A 6-year extension would be the longest in the history of the program. In all other respects, the bill is identical to the one the Finance Committee reported [in September] with broad bipartisan support,” although no further action was taken on it after receiving near unanimous support in committee.
Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) took exception to the characterization that Democrats were not in support of the CHIP provision.
“The Chairman and I did negotiate a CHIP extension back in September, and the Senate Finance did report it out in a near unanimous, bipartisan basis,” he said. “CHIP could have passed the Congress within days, but the House Republicans had other ideas.”
Sen. Wyden noted that CHIP reauthorization was attached to other legislative actions in the House that all failed to garner enough support instead of being sent through as a stand-alone bill that likely would have received large bipartisan support.
And even though the extension would be for 6 years, Sen. Wyden also questioned why it wasn’t receiving permanent authorization.
“Congress learned that making CHIP permanent actually saves taxpayer dollars,” he said. “It’s a better deal than a 6-year extension, less of an expense for the taxpayer. True fiscal conservatives ought to be tripping over themselves to pass a permanent bill without preconditions. But at every turn in the CHIP debate, Republican leaders have found a new hostage.”
Sen. McConnell said following the failed voted that the Senate would resume activities beginning at noon on Jan. 20 – with votes expected – in hopes of finding a solution.