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Hatch to Senate Democrats: Stop Holding CHIP Hostage
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today urged his colleagues to come together to avert a government shutdown and take the opportunity extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years – the longest extension in the program’s 20-year history. The CHIP proposal is bipartisan and nearly identical to the agreement Hatch struck with Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which overwhelmingly passed the Finance Committee last fall.
“…My colleagues have to know that, if they vote to block this legislation, they will unequivocally be voting against a historically long-term CHIP extension. They will be voting to prolong the very crisis – that’s their word, not mine – that they’ve been lamenting for the past several months,” Hatch said. “If they don’t know that, the CHIP advocates and stakeholders throughout the country know it. And, the families and children who depend on CHIP will know it as well. There is no reason for my colleagues to pit their righteous crusade on immigration against their righteous crusade for CHIP. This is simply a matter of priorities. Today, the priority should be to keep the government open and to ensure funding for CHIP into the future.”
Hatch’s full remarks as prepared for delievery can be found below:
Mme. President, we are now just a few hours away from a government shutdown, unless, of course, enough Senators can find a way to come together in order to avert it. Unfortunately, it appears that our Democratic colleagues would prefer a shutdown to compromise.
The Democrats have activists and pundits cheering for that result. They have their members in line to vote against the alternative. They have set the stage for a grand demonstration of their commitment.
But, for the life of me, Mme. President, I can’t see what they’re committed to with this latest gesture to their political base.
First of all, most of them don’t object to the substance of the House-passed continuing resolution. The bill would keep the government open AND address a number of bipartisan health care priorities.
The bill before us includes what would be the longest extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in history.
CHIP has given children and their families access to quality healthcare coverage for over two decades, and was founded on the belief that the health of our future is too important to be dragged down by the political bickering of the present.
Approximately nine million children depend on this critical program and, after several months of uncertainty, they deserve the peace of mind that comes with a long-term CHIP extension.
As I noted here on the floor the other day, as chairman of the Finance Committee, I have been working with my Democratic counterparts on a bipartisan CHIP extension bill for months now. The committee’s ranking member, Senator Wyden, and I introduced our initial bill earlier last fall. That bill would have reauthorized CHIP for five years and was promptly reported out of the committee with near-unanimous support.
Then, the Democrats decided to pretend that bill never existed. As we worked through a crowded legislative calendar at the end of last year, my colleagues were well aware that efforts to reauthorize CHIP were ongoing. Yet, many of our colleagues accused Republicans of neglecting vulnerable children.
The attacks on this front were fierce and usually at high volume.
I was personally attacked by colleagues in committee, here on the floor, and in the media. All kinds of vitriol was thrown in my direction both here in the Senate and out in the political intelligentsia.
Now, no one need worry about me, Mme. President. I can take it and throw it right back if it’s necessary.
But, for months, colleagues have been coming to the floor or going on TV – pretty much anywhere with a camera – to accuse Republicans of wanting to take away health insurance for vulnerable children. Throughout all of this time, they’ve conveniently neglected to mention that bipartisan efforts with regard to CHIP were moving forward, even though they clearly knew that such was the case. In fact, one of the harshest critics was an original cosponsor of our bill and a Senator who voted in support of our bill in committee.
This new bill before us would reauthorize CHIP for six years. A six-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 with broad bipartisan support.
So, where are our colleagues today?
Is Senator Wyden, who co-authored the committee’s CHIP bill, prepared to vote for an even longer extension of the program? Apparently not.
Are other Democrats on the Finance Committee, including those who publicly touted their support for the committee bill prepared to vote for this extension? Apparently not.
What about those Senate Democrats – both on and off the Finance Committee – who have been on their own righteous crusades with regard to CHIP? Are they prepared to vote for it today? Apparently not.
What has changed? Do they oppose something in the broader bill?
No. Most Democrats have supported the other healthcare elements in the package, including delays on the medical device tax, the health insurance tax, and the so-called Cadillac Tax from Obamacare. The bill would accomplish those goals as well.
What about the Democrats that have championed those causes? Are they prepared to vote in favor of this bill? Apparently not.
The question is: Why? Why are Democrats willing to filibuster this continuing resolution and shut down the government? What crazy, right-wing fantasy have we inserted into the bill?
There’s really nothing wrong with the substance of the bill, Mme. President, or at least very few of our Democratic colleagues are complaining about what’s actually in the bill. Instead, they’re complaining about what’s NOT in it.
The Democrats think they have struck political gold with immigration this week. So, they’re holding everything hostage so they can stage another righteous crusade here on the floor and in TV interviews.
It should go without saying that I, personally, would like to see a legislative fix for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
That is an important matter that needs to be addressed. And not only that, there are myriad elements to our nation’s immigration system that are in dire need of reform.
Immigration isn’t something that can be solved with a few roundtables with the President and some quick negotiations behind the scenes. It certainly isn’t something we can or should try to solve under the threat of an imminent government shutdown.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave or trapped under something very heavy for the past 15 years, you know that immigration reform – even piecemeal reform – is an extremely difficult lift. There are members of both parties willing to work on this. The president has indicated his willingness as well.
But, some don’t want to go the reasonable route. So, here we are.
Mme. President, I get that there’s an adage in this town that no one should let a good crisis go to waste. And, I certainly understand the desire to strike when a political iron is hot, and, in the eyes of most Democrats, that time is now.
However, if they filibuster this legislation, they will be filibustering reauthorized funding for CHIP.
They will be voting to prevent this bipartisan effort – the one they’ve been harping about for months now – from moving forward.
There’s another political adage that goes around in this town, Mme. President, one that horribly misquotes Napoleon. That axiom goes something like this: Never interrupt your opponent when they’re making a mistake.
Truthfully, I don’t consider my Democratic colleagues to be my “opponents.” But, a number of people unfortunately view Congress that way.
Setting those semantics aside, by urging my Democratic colleagues to vote in favor of this bill, I may very well be ignoring Napoleon’s advice.
Still, my colleagues have to know that, if they vote to block this legislation, they will unequivocally be voting against a historically long-term CHIP extension. They will be voting to prolong the very crisis – that’s their word, not mine – that they’ve been lamenting for the past several months.
If they don’t know that, the CHIP advocates and stakeholders throughout the country know it. And, the families and children who depend on CHIP will know it as well.
There is no reason for my colleagues to pit their righteous crusade on immigration against their righteous crusade for CHIP. This is simply a matter of priorities.
Today, the priority should be to keep the government open and to ensure funding for CHIP into the future.
Like I said, Mme. President, offering my colleagues this advice may amount to stepping in the way of an opponent’s mistake. But, the politics on these issues should stop. The right answer in this case is pretty obvious. The right vote is one in favor of the House-passed continuing resolution.
I urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting for this bill.
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