House passes short-term spending bill that funds CHIP, but Senate divided as government shutdown looms

Calculator on American flag
If the Senate fails to pass a short-term spending bill, it would mean millions of low-income children covered under CHIP could lose their insurance at the end of the month or in early February because states are running out of money to pay benefits. (Getty/MrLonelyWalker)

Although the House agreed to a short-term spending bill Thursday night, Senate Republicans may be short on the votes they need to pass the bill and keep the government running through mid-February.

The House of Representatives voted 230 to 197 to pass the stopgap measure, which reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. As expected, the vote fell across party lines; only six Democrats voted in favor of the bill and only 11 Republicans voted against it.

RELATED: Spending bill showdown: Health programs on the line if Congress doesn’t get votes to avert a government shutdown

But it’s unclear whether the bill will make its way to President Donald Trump, because Senate Democrats want to ensure that the legislation includes protections for young immigrants brought to the country by their parents without proper documentation and funding for disaster relief and treatment for opioid addiction.  

The Senate has until midnight to pass the bill, which provides funding through mid-February. Failure to do so will lead toward a government shutdown.

However, it may be difficult for the Republican-controlled Senate to get the 60 votes needed to pass the spending bill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is undergoing cancer treatment in Arizona and won’t be there to vote, and three Senate Republicans say they won’t back the current measure, according to Reuters. That means they will need at least 10 Democrats to vote for the measure.

Senate Democrats are holding firm and hoping that Trump will ultimately concede on immigration and the health issues to avoid a government shutdown, The New York Times reports.

A government shutdown would furlough 40,000 federal employees who work for the Department of Health and Human Services and its related agencies  and shutdown programs. It could mean the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t have the staff to monitor the severe flu epidemic and the National Institutes of Health would stop enrolling patients in clinical trials.

It also would mean millions of low-income children covered under CHIP could lose their insurance at the end of the month or in early February because states are running out of money to pay benefits. Federal funding for CHIP expired Sept. 30, and congressional efforts to reauthorize it have been beset by partisan dispute. Congress has passed short-term funding for the program in recent months  but Democrats resent that Republicans are using the issue as a bargaining chip.