Senate Democrats Should Fund the Government and CHIP

By: Michael Rummel

This week has been a rough one for Dreamers, immigrants, and those that believe that even people from less fortunate countries deserve a fair shot at the American Dream. What made it so gut wrenching was how tantalizingly close Congressional Republicans and Democrats were to securing a deal, one that would be rightly lauded as an act of bipartisanship in an increasingly fraught political atmosphere. The deal is something this publication would love to see more of – it’s one of the main reasons we founded it.

That being said, Democrats should take the deal currently proposed by Republican Leadership. They may not get protection for Dreamers, but the battle for them is far from over. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming quite famous for its judicial activism, has temporarily suspended the rescindment of DACA ordered by President Trump, giving Dreamers a lifeline, at least until the next potential government shutdown.

What they do get, however, is long-term funding  of the Child Health Insurance Program, which will ensure that 9 million children get the healthcare they deserve. It would be morally irresponsible – and political suicide – to vote no on this stop-gap measure. CHIP needs funding desperately, and no parent should have to make the choice between financial security and ensuring their child receives proper healthcare. To put this into perspective, this bill guarantees affordable healthcare for more children than there are people in the states of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, the Dakotas, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, and Maine combined.

The moral argument is clear, but the political rationale is salient as well. Senator McConnell, eyeing Democrats across the board, made his move and called out, “check,” but the playing field still looks promising. If Democrats vote yes, we ensure that 9 million children have access to affordable healthcare in exchange for a delay on the final decision on DACA and a broader immigration compromise. We sacrifice a bishop to save the king, but we  move the queen into a potential checkmate, as Republicans are running out of bargaining options to bring Democrats to the table on continuous funding of the government.

Activists will remember that it was Democrats that made sure CHIP wasn’t swept under the rug, and it will be next to impossible for Republicans to take credit for extending the funding. There’s not a realistic argument to delaying funding for a program that ensures children getting healthcare after giving massive tax breaks to corporations.

If Democrats vote no on the measure, they abandon what would be a victorious compromise for ideological purity, and they might burn the goodwill they’ve established with moderates who are put off by the President. This is tantamount to throwing their queen at a pawn just to show they can, a flashy move that could easily blow up in their faces, which could ensure that Republicans keep their majority going into 2018 (apologies for the chess metaphor, but it seemed more applicable than blackjack). How can Democrats in swing states defend their party voting no on healthcare for children to defend “illegal immigrants?” This may not be my view, but I can see the ads and billboards already.

The deal McConnell is proposing is somehow not a loss for Democrats or Republicans, and it’s arguably more of a win for Democrats. They’ve fought tooth and nail to ensure CHIP remains, and this bill guarantees its survival while keeping the fight for Dreamers alive. Voting against it would be a double edged sword, it would signal a commitment to principles, but it would forsake a good deal in the process. Take this deal, and continue to hold Republicans to their commitments on Dreamers.

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