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Legislative Update

from Ntl Family Voices:

Government Funding, CHIP, and "DREAMers"
In short: After a three-day partial shut-down, funding to maintain federal government activities has been provided through February 8 under H.R. 195 (for procedural reasons, actually titled The Federal Register Printing Savings Act of 2017).  In addition, CHIP funding was extended for six years (through 2023), with some changes in the future federal matching rate.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring up legislation to address the future of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children ("DREAMers") on or before February 8.
 
Government funding. Since the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, federal agencies and operations have been funded through a series of "continuing resolutions" (CRs). The most recent one expired at the end of Friday, January 19.  On January 18 the House passed another CR lasting through February 16. That bill also would have extended the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delayed imposition of some taxes created by the Affordable Care Act, including the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-benefit health plans and the medical device tax.
 
The bill passed the House by a vote of 230-197 and moved on to the Senate.  In that body, it would have taken 60 votes to advance the bill, meaning bipartisan support was needed.  (There are only 51 Republican Senators.)  Despite the CHIP provision, most Democrats and some Republicans opposed the bill because it did not address the future of the "DREAMers." (See below.) Thus, on January 19 the Senate failed to advance the bill by a vote of 50-49. This effectively killed the measure, leading to a partial government shut-down.  (A Democratic proposal to do a CR for only several days was also rejected.) 
 
Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and other Senators, led in discussion by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) (who used a "talking stick" to keep her colleagues from talking over one another), negotiated a deal to pass a shorter CR, lasting through February 8.  That bill includes the CHIP extension and other provisions in the original House bill.  (More on CHIP below.)  In exchange for Democratic support of this bill, Leader McConnell agreed to begin Senate debate on legislation to address the situation of DREAMers no later than February 8, provided the government remains open (i.e., the Democrats agree to another CR). 
 
On Monday, the compromise agreement was approved by the Senate, by a vote of 81-18. The House then passed it on a mostly partisan vote of 266 to 150. Monday evening, the president signed the bill into law, ending not just the government shut-down but the anxiety among parents, kids, and state officials over the long-delayed extension of CHIP funding.  
 
It is unclear whether the congressional leadership will attempt to address other outstanding issues at the same time the DACA legislation is considered in early February.  It is quite possible that other immigration and border-security issues will be part of that legislation, along with disaster relief, defense and non-defense spending caps, bills to stabilize the individual market, and health extenders (including continued funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, community health centers, and home visiting). See Senate Passes Three-Week CR to Reopen Federal Government (Roll Call, 1/22/18).
 
CHIP.  After repeal of the individual mandate to have insurance, which was part of the December 2017 tax bill, the Congressional Budget Office drastically reduced its cost estimate for a 5-year extension of CHIP -- from $8.2 billion over 10 years (standard period for cost estimates) to $800 million over 10 years.  As explained in a January 5 CBO letter, the basis for this change was the relatively lower cost of covering kids in CHIP compared to providing subsidies for private Marketplace plans, which are expected to be costlier after the mandate repeal.  (See a blog post from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families for further explanation.)  In a January 11 letter, CBO provided an estimate for a 10-year CHIP extension (through 2027); a longer extension would produce savings of $6 billion over 10 years. 
 
Given the new CBO estimate, the children's health community began to advocate for a 10-year or permanent CHIP extension.  Nevertheless, the House CR included a CHIP extension of only six years, the point at which the extension would neither cost anything nor save very much. Congressional leaders may have chosen the 6-year extension so they could reserve the additional savings from a subsequent CHIP extension to offset the cost of future legislation.
 
The CR bill ultimately enacted on January 22 will: 
  • Extend CHIP funding through FY 2023.
  • Maintain CHIP's current 23-percentage-point enhanced federal match rate (created by the ACA) through FY 2019; decrease the enhanced match to 11.5 percentage points in FY 2020; and, in 2021, return to the original federal match rate.
  • Extend the state maintenance-of-effort (MOE) requirement through 2023 for children whose family income is 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Line instead of for all children.
  • Require states to maintain their eligibility levels for CHIP in order to receive Medicaid funding. 
See CHIP is finally getting funded - after 114 days without a budget (Vox, 1/22/18); CHIP is finally funded. What Now? (Community Catalyst blog, 1/23/18).  
 
DREAMers and DACA.  Individuals who were brought to the US illegally as children are known as "DREAMers," based on a 2001 bill, the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors [DREAM] Act."  The legislation to address the DREAMers' status is referred to as "DACA," which stands for "Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals," an Obama-administration policy allowing DREAMers to stay in the US and to get work permits.  In September, President Trump announced that no more DACA permits would be issued as of March 5, but a recent court decision may have effectively extended that deadline for the time-being. See The Trump administration is keeping DACA on life support (Vox, 1/18/18). 
 
Many House and Senate Democrats, and some Republicans, voted against the initial and recent CRs because the bills did not include any measures to address the plight of DREAMers.  A sufficient number of Democrats agreed to support the second CR - with an 8-day shorter government-funding period - because Senate Leader McConnell promised that DACA legislation would be taken up in the Senate on or before February 8
 
House leaders, however, are not under any obligation to take up DACA legislation.  Moreover, to get through the Senate, a DACA bill will need bipartisan support.  Such a bill may be too moderate to get through the House, which is able to approve or disapprove legislation on a partisan basis. See The immigration negotiations Congress just gave itself 3 weeks to do, explained (Vox, 1/22/18). 

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