Congress fails to follow through on key children’s health program

When Congress returned from its summer break earlier this month, lawmakers faced a daunting to-do list for September. Among other things, the House and Senate had to prevent a government shutdown and increase the debt ceiling. They were also poised to take a variety of major legislative priorities, ranging from health care to tax policy, prompting lots of chatter about “the month from hell.”

Now that legislating has wrapped up for the month – lawmakers left town yesterday – September wasn’t quite as dramatic as originally feared, largely because Democrats and Donald Trump struck a deal to punt questions over government funding and the debt ceiling a few months.

But perhaps more interesting than what Congress did in September is what it didn’t do. One of the tasks members were supposed to tackle this month was reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and as TPM explained yesterday, that didn’t happen.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who sits on one of the key committees in charge of health care, confirmed to TPM that Congress will likely allow CHIP to lapse by Saturday’s deadline, putting the health insurance of millions of children in jeopardy.

“I’m confident the money will come but obviously it’s not going to come on time,” she said wearily.

Funding for CHIP, which provides health insurance for nearly 9 million children nationwide, expires this Saturday. The Senate Finance committee has worked for months on a bill to reauthorize it for the next five years, but the work was pushed to the back burner as Republicans chose instead to spend weeks taking one last unsuccessfully run at repealing Obamacare.

I’ll confess, when Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) struck a bipartisan deal on Sept. 12 to extend CHIP for five years, I more or less assumed everything would work out. After all, that’s usually what happens: Congress approaches a deadline, some bipartisan pairings work on an agreement, and it…

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