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Daily Action: Saving CHIP Is Worth a Shutdown

Sen. Dianne Feinstein
DC: (202) 224-3841
LA: (310) 914-7300
Sen. Kamala Harris
DC: (202) 224-3553
LA:  (213) 894-5000

Sample Script:
Hello, my name is __________, and I am a constituent of Senator ___________'s in _______________, California. I am calling to urge the Senator to use Democrats' leverage over the ongoing spending-bill talks to demand a reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Republicans never should have allowed CHIP's authorization to expire this fall, and several states will be forced to drop their children's coverage by the end of the year if Congress doesn't act now. Temporary solutions that allow Republicans to put this off, and then forget about it later, are not good enough. Democrats may never have more leverage in this Congress than they do right now -- please put it to use. Thank you!

Having pulled together to pass their massive and destructive tax-cut bill with no Democratic votes, Republicans have returned to their usual infighting over the need to fund the federal government. Their bickering and indecision place a new threat on the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, which Republicans failed to reauthorize earlier this fall. Already, three states -- Alabama, Connecticut and Colorado -- have announced they will no longer offer CHIP-related coverage by the end of January unless Congress acts immediately. Yet Senators Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander announced on Wednesday that Congress will not get around to a CHIP reauthorization before leaving on its holiday break this weekend.

CHIP provides health insurance for nearly 9 million children in low-income families, as well as nearly 400,000 pregnant women annually. Members of both parties insist they want to reauthorize the $15 billion program -- but that didn't stop Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch R-Utah), from saying the federal government no longer has the money to fund it. "The reason CHIP is having trouble [passing] is because we don’t have money anymore,” he said.

Some Republicans now hope to pass another short-term spending bill, kicking the can down the road into January. But Democrats know they have leverage to include their priorities such as the DREAM Act and CHIP. Still, some Democrats -- including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- are reluctant to risk a shutdown to increase the odds of getting those programs passed -- even though they may never have more leverage during this Congress, and the demise of those programs may begin to affect millions of Americans before Republicans deal with them on their own schedule.