The Democratic senator from Ohio is furious that Republicans are now trying to use children's health care as a bargaining chip.
Senate Republicans thought they had the perfect way to survive the government shutdown they created: throw reauthorization for the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) into the funding bill, then pretend Democrats chose immigrants over childrens health.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even posted this disgusting graphic that says it outright, even though there is no reason to choose one over the other, and McConnell has the power to immediately hold a vote to protect both groups:
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) January 21, 2018
But there is an even worse problem with this Republican lie. CHIP did not expire yesterday. It expired in September and Republicans let it sit unfunded for nearly four months while they focused on Obamacare repeal and tax cuts for billionaires.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown took to the Senate floor on Sunday to remind his GOP colleagues of this fact.
I’ve worked on CHIP for a long time, for more than a decade, said Brown. Im on the Finance Committee, I think [I’m] the only one in this room right now that’s on the committee that worked on this … I care so much about this, 209,000 Ohioans.
Imagine … you go out to the mailbox. You pick up the mail. You tear the envelope open, said Brown, holding up an envelope and tearing it in half for emphasis. You open this letter and you see that youre gonna lose your health insurance. Why? Because people in this body who get government insurance, insurance paid by taxpayers, 100 privileged senators, 435 privileged House members we have insurance, but we dont care enough to do this? Brown raged.
We had September, October, November, December, January, said Brown. Now its in this bill as a political thing, instead of really, genuinely caring about CHIP.
Say a lot of things on the other side of the aisle, Brown thundered. But dont try to tell us that they genuinely care about the 209,000 CHIP beneficiaries in my state. … It just ain’t so.”
Brown is correct. In fact, over the past several months, he took the lead in demanding Republicans get CHIP reauthorized. At one point, Senate Finance chairman Orrin Hatch threw a temper tantrum when Brown suggested Hatch cared more about cutting taxes for the wealthy.
Even now, Republicans only care about CHIP as a bargaining tool. There is no clean bill to fund it; Republicans are forcing it to be tied to the spending bill. GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana even said that in his view, childrens health care is just leverage.
Lawmakers need to concern themselves with protecting the vulnerable. Instead, Republicans are using the vulnerable as human shields.