Senate Dems warn against cutting ObamaCare fund to pay for children's health program

Senate Dems warn against cutting ObamaCare fund to pay for children's health program
© Keren Carrion

Senate Democrats warned Republican leadership Thursday against cutting ObamaCare's public health fund to pay for an extension of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

A bill the House is expected to pass this week to extend funding for CHIP would pay for it through cuts to ObamaCare's Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). 

But 22 Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (Mass.), warned Thursday they wouldn't support those offsets in the upper chamber. 

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“Using the PPHF as a piggy bank, even for important health programs, will result in major cuts to state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments, as well as other grantees working at the local level,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to Senate leadership. 

Democratic support is crucial to passing CHIP in the Senate, where it would need at least 60 votes. Republicans only have a 52-seat majority. 

Democrats warn that the cuts to the public health fund could result in the elimination of programs like anti-smoking efforts and programs to immunize children. 

Cutting the fund to offset the CHIP extension is an issue for Democrats in the House, too. But Republicans have a large enough majority in the House that they don't need Democratic support to pass the bill. 

Most House Democrats are expected to vote against the CHIP bill when it comes up for a vote Friday, arguing that Republicans are using it to gut ObamaCare. 

“It is a further example that this has become a vehicle to sabotage the Affordable Care Act,” a Democratic aide told The Hill this week.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan bill to extend CHIP for five years last month but has not yet agreed on offsets. It's not clear if the Senate will take up the House bill.