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 WydenGrassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Advocates draw battle lines over national privacy law Congress should pass bill to prevent stacked taxation of digital purchases 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]."

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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 McConnellRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Congress is going to make marijuana moves 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 WaldenDems to ramp up oversight of Trump tech regulators Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump insists GOP will 'totally' protect people with pre-existing conditions | Landmark opioid bill signed into law | Report finds agencies blindsided by 'zero tolerance' policy Vulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions 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 warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' Over 1,600 lawyers sign letter saying Mueller probe must be protected 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 TrumpMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Avenatti denies domestic violence allegations: 'I have never struck a woman' Trump names handbag designer as ambassador to South Africa 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 GrahamSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate McConnell: Mueller probe should be allowed to finish 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.