CHIP funding bill hits roadblock in the House

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Partisan disputes over funding mechanisms have stalled the House's effort to pass a CHIP bill.

A bill that would reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has stalled in the House as lawmakers wrangle over how to pay for it.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Tuesday that at Democrats’ request, Republicans will delay sending their CHIP funding measure to the floor “in the hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement on offsets.”

Last week, the committee voted along party lines to advance the bill after a contentious markup hearing in which Democrats pointed out that the measure would take money away from Medicare and Affordable Care Act programs to pay for CHIP.

Following the vote, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., issued a statement calling on Walden to return to the negotiating table “so that we can develop a bill that can garner strong, bipartisan support.”  

“The partisan bills Committee Republicans approved late last night have no chance of ever becoming law,” he said.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced its own CHIP funding bill last week, though that measure did not outline how Congress would pay for it.

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One thing that both parties agree on is the urgency of passing a CHIP bill. Federal funding for the program expired Sept. 30, and the longer Congress delays taking action, the tougher it will be on states.

Eleven states anticipate they will burn through their federal funding by the end of 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and 32 states project they will exhaust federal funds by the end of March 2018.

Indeed, “with multiple state CHIP and public health programs on countdown clocks, if the minority wants to reach a bipartisan agreement, time is of the essence,” Walden said in his statement.

If lawmakers don’t reach a deal by the end of the week, he said he expects the House to take up the bill “immediately” after its district work period, which ends Oct. 23.