The government is in its official shutdown mode.
This is Trahant Reports.
Congress cannot pass a budget because there are several different factions, think of them as mini-political parties, and they all have different goals. Remember this: The Republicans are in charge. This process could have been resolved within the caucus — if the GOP leadership had the votes. But some want more money for the military, others want less money for all government, and others are demanding a hardline on immigration.
There are three things on the Democrats’ “must” list. They want domestic spending protected. Democrats also want funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP. This is a huge program for Indian Country (along with Medicaid) because it pays the health care costs for so many American Indian and Alaska Native children.
As the National Indian Health Board posted last week, the House bill “does contain a 6-year reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program but does not include the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.” This is a huge miss. The Special Diabetes for Program for Indians expires on March 3st.
So an ideal solution would be for the Senate to include both CHIP and the diabetes program in any deal that’s made with the White House.
The bill also does not fund Community Health Centers which could lose up to 70 percent of their budget.
What’s open? Well, the Bureau of Indian Education schools, and Indian Health Service clinics should be open. But money for third-party medical care could be delayed. In fact all contracts could be a problem. And expect as many as half of the Bureau of Indian Affairs employees to be furloughed.
In the Senate the final sticking point for Democrats is protecting the people who were brought to this country by their parents or other adults unlawfully as children. This issue is interesting because nearly everyone says they see the value in finding a solution to because the United States is their country in all but paperwork.
Yet even the rhetoric is changing. A few days ago Republicans were talking about agreement on this point. Today the language is harsh. Republicans saying Democrats are trying to “protect illegal aliens.”
But the Senate bill that the president rejected was a bipartisan immigration bill. Immigration hardliners did not want that deal, even though it would have increased funding for the wall. The White House represents the most conservative element on immigration issues.
Of course none of these debates are new. But Congress has not had the votes to pass any plan. So the solution has been short-term spending bills. One after another.
The government shutdown is about ending that stalemate, resolving the debates, and moving forward.
That said: Don’t be surprised if another “deal” is just another short-term pass. The go, though, is to force Congress into a real debate. Big picture stuff.
I am Mark Trahant.