Late Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation keeping the federal government open and funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The continuing resolution would extend government funding at current levels for four weeks, essentially buying time for House, Senate and White House negotiators to reach a full appropriations deal that could include immigration reforms. The bill also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program – which funds Alabama’s ALL Kids insurance program – for another six years.
Alabama’s House Delegation voted along party lines: Republican Reps. Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Gary Palmerand Mo Brooks voting in favor of the funding measure, and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell voting against it.
Many democrats opposed the bill because it did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, or DACA, which is set to expire in March. Republican leaders say there is still time to work out an agreement on DACA, but that shutting down the government over an “arbitrary deadline” was irresponsible.
The successful, mostly party-line vote sends the bill to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain. It also sets up an interesting early test for Alabama’s newest federal lawmaker, Sen. Doug Jones.
Through his spokesman, Jones was critical of the legislation, but stopped short of saying he would vote against it.
In a statement, Jones said:
“It is not too late for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and work out a deal to avoid a government shutdown. However, I am still very concerned that this is yet another short-term funding plan that would put Congress in the same position again next month. While I appreciate that CHIP is included in this bill, it still does not address key issues like funding rural healthcare initiatives. People expect their government to work for them, and this is no way to run a government.”
Asked if that meant Jones would vote against the legislation, Jones spokesman Sam Coleman did not respond.
During and after his successful special election campaign, Jones repeatedly spoke about finding common ground with Republicans and working across party lines to do what’s in the best interest of Alabama. Jones specifically made a point of supporting CHIP and renewing its funding to preserve the health care coverage for more than 150,000 Alabama children.
Jones counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby has been outspoken about his support of the stop-gap funding bill. In a tweet Thursday, Shelby drew attention to the many Alabama families who depend on CHIP.
In Alabama, 150,000 kids are depending on the Child Health Insurance Program. I look forward to supporting the Continuing Resolution, which includes a 6 year #CHIP reauthorization and would keep the government open and running to continue the work of the American people.
— Richard Shelby (@SenShelby) January 18, 2018
Some within Alabama’s House delegation called out their Democratic colleagues for not working with them to keep the government open and fund children’s healthcare.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) took to the House floor calling on Democrats to “stop holding military funding hostage.”
“I know my colleagues may not like our President,” Byrne said. I know my colleagues have different priorities than I do. But for goodness sakes can we not at least agree that we should adequately fund our troops and the nation’s military? Can we not at least agree that we shouldn’t be playing political games with our military men and women?”
Rep. Martha Roby joined House leaders at a news conference imploring Democrats to work with Republicans.
“Many of the families I represent in Alabama depend on CHIP funding to make sure their children have access to health care,” Roby said. “That’s why it is incredibly disheartening that some Democrats are playing party politics with children’s health insurance. This, of all times, is not a time for games. It’s a time for action.”
A “senior Democratic aide” told NBC News that enough “no” votes exist within the Senate Democratic Caucus to block the bill and force a government shutdown. At least one Democratic Senator seems to be working with Republicans to pass the stop-gap spending bill. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told reporters Thursday he would vote to keep the government open.