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Government Shutdown Hinges on CHIP Funding, 60-Vote Threshold

By Jack O'Brien  
   January 19, 2018

To avoid the first government shutdown since 2013, the Senate must address several outstanding policy disputes, including long-term funding for CHIP, by midnight on Friday.

  • The wedge: Funding for CHIP will run dry in nearly a dozen states by the end of February, causing about 1.7 million low-income kids to lose health coverage. Temporary funding expires tonight.
  • The rub: Democrats want to include DACA in the must-pass measure; most Republicans want to handle DACA separately. Republicans want to include CHIP in the must-pass measure; most Democrats want to handle CHIP separately.
  • The tally: Republicans have 51 seats in the Senate, with only 50 expected to vote. They need 60 votes.

With the deadline to avoid a government shutdown coming at midnight tonight, both sides of the aisle remain uncertain about passing a short-term funding package.

The Senate is considering a continuing resolution (CR) passed Thursday night by the House to keep the government open through February 16. The CR includes a two-year delay of the medical device tax and "Cadillac tax," which were introduced through the Affordable Care Act, and a six-year extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which supplies health insurance to an estimated 9 million low-income children.

CHIP has not been fully funded since Congress failed to reauthorize its funding by October 1. As part of the CR passed last month, Congress authorized $2.85 billion for CHIP programs across the country though nearly a dozen states are slated to exhaust those funds by the end of February.

Senate voices signal steep obstacles to avoid shutdown

Now that the House has passed the CR by a vote of 230 to 197, the Senate takes up the task of delivering the measure to President Donald Trump. It won’t be easy.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly urged Republican senators to accept the deal and its imperfections, several have already defected.

At least four GOP senators are unlikely to vote in favor of the CR. Two have voiced public opposition: Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul. And a spokeswoman for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he has never voted in favor of a CR before.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is unlikely to vote on the measure as he continues to recover from treatment for brain cancer.

Considering the number of declared defections, McConnell needs to attract significant Democratic support to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass the CR. However, Democratic leaders told Politico late Thursday afternoon that they have the votes to prevent the CR from passing.

While 18 Democratic senators supported December’s CR, most oppose this CR. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., is the only Democratic senator to announce his willingness to vote for the CR.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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