Congress Adjourns With No Agreement on Kids’ Health Insurance Bill
Lawmakers on Thursday were unable to reach a compromise on legislation that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program before Congress adjourned for the Thanksgiving recess, CongressDaily reports.
According to CongressDaily, negotiations on the bill could continue in December, but some congressional sources "said there is virtually no chance of reaching a deal before the end of the year." House Republicans on Thursday presented Senate negotiators with their "final offer," and it was still being vetted hours before lawmakers adjourned for the recess.
A House Democratic leadership aide called the Republican proposal a "disaster," saying it would not cover 10 million children -- an issue that Democrats are unwilling to compromise on (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/16). According to a House Democratic leadership aide, "The proposal that Republicans put forward would walk away from the bipartisan goal of insuring 10 million kids." The aide said Democrats also opposed provisions of the plan that would change the way states calculate Medicaid eligibility, which could result in some children losing coverage, and a requirement that states that provide SCHIP coverage to middle-income families roll back their programs, which also would result in some children losing coverage.
A House Republican leadership aide said that Democrats' response "signals a hesitation" on their part "to deal seriously with this independent group of House Republicans who are trying to have their issues addressed." Republicans would like to limit coverage of adults and tighten restrictions of coverage of undocumented immigrants (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/15).
According to CongressDaily, the situation is complicated by "House Republicans' inability to whip their fellow members on whether any more support exists for the bill." Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) said it is difficult to ask lawmakers to support an agreement when the terms of a deal keep changing (CongressDaily, 11/16).
Should the December discussions not produce a bill, the future of SCHIP is "unclear," because Democrats "might have trouble passing even an extension stretching into fall 2008," according to CQ Today. Funding for the program expires on Dec. 14, and another "short-term fix may be possible," CQ Today reports. The Congressional Research Service has determined that 21 states need a combined additional $1.6 billion in federal funds for fiscal year 2008 to maintain current enrollment in the program (CQ Today, 11/15).