Will Klobuchar and Smith Vote for Shutdown Over Saving Children’s Health Program?

Minnesota has effectively run out of federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program covers health care costs for 125,000 Minnesota children. But now there’s a chance to salvage the program, if the U.S. Senate, including Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Smith, vote to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Democrats have railed over Congress’ failure to re-up the program for months, joined by members of Minnesota’s delegation. The Minnesota media added to the chorus.

Minnesota will have to spend $178 million over the next 18 months if Congress fails to reauthorize a federal health insurance program that covers 125,000 children in the state, according to the budget forecast released Tuesday.

Minnesota has essentially exhausted its funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, after Congress let the program’s funding lapse in September.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was particularly outraged, issuing an angry tweet over the failings of her colleagues to help kids and families on CHIP just before Christmas.

“There’s NO excuse for not passing CHIP now. None. As I said in my floor speech, last time it got 92 votes. Millions of kids without care? The republicans must bring it up for a vote! Congressional failure on CHIP, health center funding is a disgrace.”

Now Klobuchar finally has her chance to follow through and reinstate funding for “millions of kids without care.” Republicans have included CHIP funding as part of the latest Continuing Resolution to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.

A no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. Klobuchar may be looking for her own excuse not to support the legislation whose failure to pass she so recently called “a disgrace.” CNN lists Minesota’s senior senator’s position on the CR as “unclear but voted no in December.”

Meantime, Minnesota’s newest senator faces a vote that could prove to be a defining moment for her political future. The cable network categorizes Smith as “leaning no” and supporting a government shutdown,  based on her remarks on CNN this morning.

“Our great country cannot be run a month at a time. These short-term budget fixes don’t really fix anything, and we need to get to the negotiating table and come to an agreement on issues that i think in most part we already have agreement on.”

Of course, Klobuchar and Smith were both against a government shutdown before they were for it. Klobuchar gave an impassioned floor speech in the Senate prior to the 16 day shutdown in 2013. The text remains posted on Klobuchar’s website under the heading “Don’t Shut Down the Government and Hold Our Economy Hostage to Score Political Points.”

There are some who are willing to hold our country hostage just to score political points, Mr. President. The fact of the matter is that a government shutdown would be painful and it would be expensive.

What’s “painful and expensive” is watching the contortions of elected officials whose positions and principles appear to blow with the prevailing winds in Washington.