America loves its kids.
In politics, there are a couple of groups who matter more than the rest of us. Those who have served or are serving in our military have elevated status among members of Congress. That love doesn’t always translate into actions that matter, but politicos generally talk a good game with regard to veterans.
And then there are the kids. Kids aren’t members of parties. They aren’t affiliated with a church or any other demographic in the eyes of politicians. They are innocent. They are clay that hasn’t hardened yet, or paint on the canvas that is still wet to touch. They represent tomorrow.
This weekend they have become leverage in Washington.
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday in support of the budget continuing resolution, or CR. Her support came largely as a result of the legislation’s extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. So what is CHIP? It is low-cost insurance for families with incomes too high for Medicaid but potentially too low to afford private insurance plans, specifically designed to keep our children healthy. Every state has its own version of the program, but they all receive funding from the feds. Indiana included.
Support for it should be a no-brainer, right?
Funding for CHIP expired on September 30. It received temporary funding in the last CR on December 21. That temporary funding expires on March 31.
The current Republican proposal extends CHIP for six years. They would have you believe that this is vitally important to them. At least it is now. I’m honestly curious what took them so long.
At midnight Saturday morning, the federal government’s funding mechanism expired and the government started its “shutdown.” Republicans blame Democrats for the impasse. Brooks is one member who appears to be using CHIP as the leverage to make the other party appear unreasonable for not simply going along with the CR on the table.
Democrats support CHIP, and have been clamoring for its extension since October 1. But they also care about other children. And those children are the ones brought to this country illegally, but through no fault of their own. The “Dreamers,” or ones enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, also need help from the government. This program was shutdown last year by President Trump, and it accompanied a challenge from the president to Congress to come up with a law that would replace it. DACA had existed only as an executive order signed by President Barack Obama.
Support for a Congress-enacted program for these children, most of whom are now model adult citizens, would not immediately seem to be as simple as CHIP. But it is. Nearly 90 percent of Americans support making DACA the law of the land.
See. America loves its kids. And that love includes the Dreamers.
Republicans control Congress. And though there is a Republican in the White House, I certainly would not call it under “control.”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid described the situation almost perfectly for me when she tweeted that “the Republicans took two sets of hostages: DACA young people and CHIP kids and are telling Democrats to pick one to save or we blow up the building.”
So far, it looks like the Democrats are choosing both sets. Until a few days ago, I thought Republicans were choosing the same. Supporting CHIP does not make supporting DACA an ounce more difficult. It is a little like choosing whether to walk or chew gum.
Trump should have just kept his word on all of this. He should have accepted the bipartisan deal on DACA that was brought to him earlier in the week. He said he would sign it, before he reneged a couple of hours later after apparently discovering he wasn’t being hateful enough. His wishy-washy negotiating style, more than any other singular thing, is the reason for this shutdown.
Even Trump knows this shutdown will be blamed on him.
Congress could have worked all of this out, had they left Trump out of the game. Now they are firing off ultimatums at each other that will be hard to take back. A few days ago, both parties were calling those in the DACA program “Dreamers.” Now Republicans are calling them “illegal immigrants,” as if their contrived anger toward Senator Chuck Schumer means that these innocent people are suddenly less innocent than they once were.
Brooks supports the CR largely because of her concern for children. In her heart, I know she also cares about the Dreamers, just like her constituents do. I bet this describes most of her voters:
They all love kids. And they love all of the kids.
Our government doesn’t have to choose between them. And it really is that simple.