Senate Dems push for health center funding in spending bill

Senate Dems push for health center funding in spending bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are pushing for additional health-care measures like funding for community health centers to be included in a short-term funding bill this week ahead of a impending government shutdown.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbying world Hillicon Valley: Trump claims 'no deal' to help Chinese company ZTE | Congress briefed on election cyber threats | Mueller mystery - Where's indictment for DNC hack? | Zuckerberg faces tough questions in Europe Senator presses DOD to secure agency’s publicly accessible web pages MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said at a press conference with Democratic leaders on Wednesday that he wanted the community health center funding added, as well as an extension of programs for home visits from nurses and for rural healthcare.

He argued it was wrong for Republicans to include delays of ObamaCare taxes, such as the health insurance tax, without addressing those programs. 

"We feel really strongly about community health centers, visiting nurses, rural health extenders being left out and yet a big corporation like UnitedHealth will benefit from the health insurance [tax] delay," Wyden said. "All those folks got big relief at the end of the year [in the tax-reform bill]."


Republicans, meanwhile, are pressuring Democrats by pointing to the six years of funding in the package for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a Democratic priority.  

“The newest member of this body, the junior senator from Alabama, campaigned on this very issue," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' MORE (R-Ky.) said earlier Wednesday, referring to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

"As senator-elect, he insisted that his future colleagues should, quote, ‘stop playing political football with the health care of our children.’ He called it, quote, ‘absolutely unacceptable for partisan fighting to delay renewing funding for CHIP.’"

“I hope my friends the Democratic leaders are listening to their own members," McConnell added.

Democrats say the other health-care programs, like community health centers, should be added. And they argue it is Republicans' fault for letting CHIP expire in the first place, after it was supposed to be reauthorized by Sept. 30.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul Walden'Right to try' is an ill-considered bill Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals House approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk MORE (R-Ore.) said Wednesday he hopes to fund community health centers later on as part of a long-term government funding deal.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer: Trump should take Kim Jong Un off 'trip coin' Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes MORE (D-N.Y.) said there is an "overwhelming number" of Senate Democrats opposed the current funding package.

Democrats are also pushing for an immigration deal, but it is unclear how many will vote no on government funding in the absence of an agreement to protect those affected by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCEO of American investment firm believed Michael Cohen could bring in GOP donors for deals: report NAACP slams NFL for gag rule on national anthem Pelosi: Republican meeting over informant will 'nix' possibility of bipartisan briefing MORE's decision to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.

At least nine Democrats are needed to get 60 votes to advance a spending measure in the Senate, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Dem leaders request bipartisan meeting on Russia probe Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that he would not vote for a short-term spending plan proposed by the House.

"We're going to look at the whole package and Sen. Schumer is going to keep negotiating," Wyden said.