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Daily Action: Demand CHIP Reauthorization To Avoid 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!

Yesterday, House Republicans introduced a short-term spending bill that maintains the current federal spending levels for two weeks, until Dec. 22, and includes a provision to ensure that states are not forced to suspend the popular Children's Health Insurance Program during that time. 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.

Of course, early Saturday morning the Senate passed its version of a bill that includes $6 trillion in tax cuts, leaving a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal budget over 10 years. The CHIP program ran out of money in September, when Republicans failed to reauthorize it on schedule (as they obsessed over their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act). Since then, several states have begun warning recipients of CHIP funding that the program will be discontinued unless Congress acts. For example, Colorado's Department of Health Care Policy and Financing sent a letter to beneficiaries stating, "If Congress does not renew federal funding for CHP+ by late December 2017, you will get a letter telling you when your CHP+ benefits will end and what else you may qualify for.

While Republicans hope to kick the spending-bill can down the road for two weeks (presumably so they can focus on finalizing their tax-cut bill first), Democrats know that when it comes time for a longer-term bill, they will have leverage to include their priorities such as the DREAM Act and CHIP. But few Democrats have said they're willing 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.