Back in 1997, after the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was signed into law by Bill Clinton, some right-wingers were placing the blame on Hillary (surprise, surprise). But by all objective accounts, Mrs. Clinton did play a significant role as First Lady in getting her husband’s administration to not only push for the bill, but stay with a more generous version of it, after House Republicans had cut down its funding (surprise, surprise). Ted Kennedy, who was the leading legislative force behind the CHIP bill, gave Hillary credit for providing “invaluable help, both in the fashioning and the shaping of the program.”
Today, according to the government, 8.4 million kids are enrolled in CHIP, which covers children whose parents make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The program provides qualified kids with health coverage and their parents with, well, some peace of mind. CHIP is funded by both the states and the federal government and likely would be insuring even more kids today if George W. Bush had not vetoed an expansion of the program in 2007 (surprise, surprise). Why did he veto it? Did he hate children? Nah. The bill contained a tax increase on cigarettes to pay for the expansion and Bush told Congress that he “was willing to work with its leadership to find any additional funds necessary to put poor children first, without raising taxes.” In other words, Bush put children second and lower cigarette taxes first (surprise, surprise).
As you can theoretically see, it matters who manages the government, both in Congress and the White House. Barack Obama signed an expansion of the program in 2009, which helped more children and pregnant women. The program was renewed again in 2015 with overwhelming bipartisan support (although there was a “discussion draft” created by right-wingers that was designed to reduce the number of those covered). But it is worth noting three of the eight Republicans in the Senate who opposed that renewal in 2015: Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio. Jeff Sessions. All three have a Trump connection. Cruz and Rubio infamously ran against him and more infamously support Trump despite saying horrible things about him. And Sessions was the first big-timer to legitimate Trump and has been his most prominent defender on Capitol Hill.
There were also 33 Republicans in the House who opposed the renewal of CHIP. One of them was Jim Bridenstine, who essentially represents Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Congress. Bridenstine recently blasted Speaker Paul Ryan for not supporting Trump: “If Paul Ryan isn’t for Trump,” he tweeted, “then I’m not for Paul Ryan.” Well, we all know that Trump has repeatedly and forcefully vowed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, helps “strengthen coverage for children and financing for CHIP.” Again, it matters very much who creates legislation, votes on it, and signs it into law—or doesn’t.
In the case of CHIP, most Americans may not care about who did what and who didn’t. Most folks don’t need the program and probably don’t know anyone who does. Thus, it is an abstraction, something that doesn’t necessarily matter all that much. Sometimes, though, people need a reminder of how much programs like CHIP matter to their fellow citizens and who it was out there fighting for them. Here is one such reminder: