The new spending deal that Paul Ryan has put on the table to avert a looming government shutdown is a disgrace. In exchange for a stopgap measure that would fund the government for a month—something that comes with even more corporate tax cuts for multibillion dollar health insurance companies—Ryan is offering a measly six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance program. In other words, he’s turning the funding of children’s healthcare into a bargaining chip to get Democrats to vote to keep the entire country running.
Children’s health insurance costs literally nothing. The Congressional Budget Office recently found that extending the program for ten years would actually save the government money, yet Ryan is still only willing to give children a six-year extension. He’s trying to take Democrats for a ride.
If the program was brought to a vote in a separate bill, it would pass in a second, which is why Ryan is trying to use it as leverage, knowing that some Democrats might be averse to voting against CHIP. But that’s exactly what they should do. The program, which traditionally has strong bipartisan support, should have passed months ago—the only reason why it still sits in limbo is because Republicans, who control every single branch of the government, have kept it there.
And of course, this deal includes no protections for DACA recipients. Ryan is trying to pit Democrats’ desire to save children against their desire to protect DACA recipients. But both of these programs are highly popular among voters, who are more likely to blame Republicans and Trump for a government shutdown than Democrats. Even if Democrats take a few political hits for voting against CHIP, it’s the right thing to do.
This deal is laughably lousy. As my colleague Emma Roller recently wrote in defense of a government shutdown: “Democrats: You have leverage. Now is the time to use it. If you don’t take this opportunity, you’ve all but ceded the game to Republicans.” Ryan’s bill is a test—let’s just hope that the Democrats pass.