Grassley: No Kids’ Health Agreement by Holiday Recess
A bipartisan group of lawmakers will not reach an agreement before Thanksgiving on revisions to legislation that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Tuesday, CQ Today reports.
Grassley said that two weeks of discussions between Democrats and a group of House Republicans have not been sufficient to produce an agreement before the end of the week, when lawmakers begin a two-week recess.
According to Grassley, progress on a revised bill has been slow because Democrats are concerned that some concessions to Republicans -- in particular, whether parents should be eligible for SCHIP coverage -- could result in the loss of support from their own party. Grassley said, "There were some negotiations that went so far to satisfy some Republicans that it made it possible we'd lose some Democrats" (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/13).
Several House Democrats also "have drawn the line" on proof-of-citizenship requirements, saying they will not accept a bill that imposes heavy documentation requirements on SCHIP applicants. In addition, lawmakers have not fully addressed other issues, such as whether eligibility for SCHIP can be determined through enrollment in other government programs, such as school lunches or food stamps, and whether the SCHIP bill would change how states run their Medicaid programs (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/14).
A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that the senator "wants to finalize an SCHIP agreement as soon as possible, and he's working very hard with Sen. Grassley and with a host of others to do so." According to CQ Today, it is "not imperative that Baucus finish a deal this week" because President Bush on Tuesday signed a continuing resolution that will fund the program until Dec. 14 (CQ Today, 11/13).
Members of the TriCaucus -- Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- said that they would not support the revised SCHIP bill because Democratic lawmakers are making too many concessions to Republicans, Roll Call reports. CAPAC Chair Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and CBC Chair Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) said that they have been excluded from negotiations on the bill. "We want to be informed. We want to be a part of that discussion before anything is put on the table," Honda said.
Kilpatrick said, "Because the negotiations seem to be giving away what we want to see, they won't pass that kind of bill with us." She added, "What we're only going to vote for at this point is a continuation of the current SCHIP bill." TriCaucus members on Nov. 6 sent a letter to Democratic leaders outlining their concerns about revisions to the bill, including proof-of-citizenship requirements and cuts to outreach programs intended to enroll minorities in SCHIP.
A Democratic leadership aide said party leaders are aware of the TriCaucus' concerns, adding, "We have made it clear we are committed to ensuring that any agreement would improve upon current law and ensure that those who legally have a right to coverage are not impeded." The aide said, "The bottom line is that we should prohibit those who are not in the country legally from receiving services, but in doing so, we shouldn't block U.S. citizens from getting health care" (Yachnin, Roll Call, 11/14).