In 1997, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch joined Democrat Ted Kennedy as the chief sponsor of what would become known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For the next twenty years, CHIP was considered a bipartisan achievement and while there have been policy disagreements over the program, most Democrats and Republicans agreed that providing health insurance for children is generally something good that should continue.
Hatch told The New York Times in 1997 that he was co-sponsoring the legislation in part to prove that the Republican Party “does not hate children.” He also said that “as a nation, as a society, we have a moral responsibility” in regards to providing health insurance to children. Hatch noted that by not being insured, “children are being terribly hurt and perhaps scarred for the rest of their lives.”
What a difference twenty years can make! Since CHIP expired in September, the Republican Party has spent its time pushing for numerous other priorities instead, like repealing Obamacare and tax cuts for the wealthy. Millions of children stand to lose their insurance in the new year. The GOP hopes to pass a last-minute spending bill that would extend the program through March at a cost of $2.8 billion, but this is literally the bare minimum they could do. (Compare this to the fact that they just passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill.)
So what does Hatch have to say about the situation today? Earlier this month on the Senate floor he stated, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is we don’t have any money anymore.” Hatch then explained why he thought there was no more money: “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.” In other words, the GOP can’t afford a measly $8 billion to extend CHIP for five years, but they can spend $1.5 trillion on tax cuts for the rich.
Hatch’s evolution from 1997 to now is a reflection of how far the Republican Party has fallen from even trying to keep up the pretense that it cares about anyone besides the rich. We can finally lay to rest the idea that the Republican Party “does not hate children.” It clearly hates children.