It's been 101 days since the Republican Congress allowed funding to expire for the Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers, and the only thing those Republicans have done about it is to pass a Band-Aid of $2.85 billion in temporary funding. That, and the House Republicans passed a bill full of poison pills that they knew was unacceptable to Senate Democrats, where it would have to have gained 60 votes.
Thankfully, the traditional media has finally cottoned to this unfolding disaster, and are condemning Congress for it. Maybe they're not really getting it, because as this Washington Post editorial tries to have it, this time it's not about ineptitude. It's about veniality.
Disagreement in Congress is not necessarily a sign of dysfunction. But when both parties broadly agree that something should happen yet serially fail to follow through, the nation’s leaders look particularly inept. The example of the moment is the ongoing saga of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a popular service that covers 9 million young Americans—and that is rapidly running out of cash, alarming families that rely on the federal aid to keep their children healthy. […]
Yet the fact would remain: Funding CHIP should be routine business, and it has instead been over the past year a desperate, last-minute mess. Politicians often decry Washington "dysfunction" when what they really mean is that their party cannot get its own way. But to much of the public, it is episodes such as the CHIP debacle that are the problem.
While the Post editorial board does note that the House Republicans would have cut funding for public health programs to pay for CHIP, and "Democrats rightly objected," they don't point out that Republicans knew when they were doing it that Democrats would object. That passing the bill that they did was nothing but pure partisan politics, with some hostage-taking thrown in. It was done with total disregard not just for the 9 million kids on CHIP, but for the 20+ million people who rely on community health centers for their care, which also got cut off. (Not to mention the 75,000 people who work at those centers.)
They are not so inept that they couldn't simply pass a reauthorization of these programs—they've been doing so regularly for a couple of decades and even managed to do so while obstructing President Obama. Incompetence is definitely a defining characteristic of the Republican Congress, but it doesn't trump the evil.
Jam the phone lines of House and Senate Republicans. Call (202) 224-3121, and tell them to stop holding kids hostage and to pass a clean funding bill for CHIP and community health centers.