Brown Attempts to Pass Chip On Senate Floor, Republican Leadership Objects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senate colleagues in calling up a clean extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – a move that would have extended insurance coverage for 209,000 Ohio children outside of the failed budget process. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected to allowing CHIP to move forward, proving that Republican Leadership has no interest in actually passing CHIP, and is instead using the critical program as leverage in its failed budget process.

For the past 112 days, Republican leaders – who control both houses of Congress and the White House – have refused to extend the expired CHIP program. Instead, they allowed the program to expire in order to use children’s healthcare as leverage in budget negotiations.  

“It is time for Republican leaders to stop holding CHIP children and families hostage to their failed budget process,” said Brown. “These are not bargaining chips – they are kids – more than 209,000 in Ohio and 9 million nationwide. And they are depending on us to do our jobs.”

Brown’s full remarks on the floor this afternoon, as prepared for delivery, follow below.

Mr. President,

It has now been 112 days since funding expired for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

That’s 112 days of uncertainty for families.

112 days of mothers worried about whether they’ll be able to afford their child’s checkups.

112 days of fathers worried about whether they’ll have to choose between the heating bill or medicine for their kids.

And for every one of those 112 days, Republican leaders in Congress have made a choice – a choice to do nothing for these families.

They made a choice to let CHIP expire.

They made a choice to not bring the bipartisan bill we passed out of the Finance Committee to the floor.

They made a choice to spend all of their time and energy on a massive tax cut for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

And they have a choice today.

I’m calling on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together and pass a permanent extension of CHIP, with no strings attached.

It’s a policy we can all agree on – protecting health insurance for more than 9 million children, plus an added bonus of $6 billion in savings to the federal government.

This policy doesn’t just make moral sense. It makes financial sense.

It is time for Republican leaders to stop holding CHIP children and families hostage to their failed budget process.

These are not bargaining chips – they are kids – more than 209,000 in Ohio and 9 million nationwide. And they are depending on us to do our jobs.

Think about these families, and the stress they are facing.

I think about the letters I get and the stories I hear from Ohio families.

Josh from Cleveland said, CHIP “helped me arrange for my family to get the health coverage they needed while I looked for a new job. As a parent…that peace of mind, knowing that my family is secure getting the medical help they need should something God forbid arise, is priceless.”

Tiffany from Cleveland wrote to me, “My son relied on CHIP…Without CHIP, we would not have been able to afford to get him intensive speech therapy for his severe…diagnosis. Without this speech therapy, he would not be able to speak today. CHIP gave him a voice. Now I want to use my own voice to give other kids like him a chance.”

Linda from Johnstown wrote to me about her grandchildren, writing: “The CHIP program is vital to my daughter and grandchild. My daughter is a hard-working, tax-paying, 26-year-old, single mother to a 4-year-old son.

“She works over 40 hours each week as chef. They do qualify for CHIP and it is a tremendous help…Without the CHIP program, she would be forced to find other ways to make ends meet, or perhaps even to quit working, so that she would qualify for 'FULL' Public Assistance. Providing CHIP helps her continue to be a working, tax paying citizen.”

Another grandmother – it’s always the grandmothers, never underestimate them – Suzanne, from Columbus, wrote to me. She wrote: “As a Pediatric Nurse for over 40 years, I have seen firsthand how the CHIP program has provided essential healthcare and saved lives for Ohio Children.

“As a Grandmother, my grandchildren have benefited from this program. Their Father is deceased and my daughter cannot afford the high cost of her company insurance but makes too much to qualify for Medicaid without this program my Grandchildren would not have had adequate healthcare.”

So many of these families are just like Linda’s and Suzanne’s daughters – they work full time, they just aren’t lucky enough to work for employers that offer health insurance.

All of my colleagues are that lucky. I don’t know how we can stand here – with insurance paid for by taxpayers – insurance that will continue to pay our medical bills even while the government is shut down – and refuse to even hold a vote on a simple, straightforward CHIP extension with no strings attached.

And make no mistake, that is what Republican leaders have done for 112 days.

They could have brought the bipartisan CHIP bill we passed in the Finance Committee to the floor at any time over those 112 days.

I asked Leader McConnell and Senator Hatch time and again to bring this bill to the floor and allow a vote. It would have passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support. But they refused.

They chose to hold this program and the kids who depend on it hostage to their failed budget process.

But they have a chance to make a different choice today.

A chance to stop using children and families as bargaining chips. A chance to do our jobs for the people we represent.

A chance to choose making policy over playing politics.

If this is really about children’s healthcare, I challenge Leader McConnell to bring a clean, permanent CHIP bill to the floor right now.

There’s no need to hold this up while we continue to fight over the budget process. Pretending that the two must pass together or not at all is a fallacy.

A permanent CHIP extension that provides certainty to families and $6 billion in savings to the federal government will pass overwhelmingly, and I’ll be the first, enthusiastic vote.