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Politics

The tax code isn't a real emergency

Catherine Rampell on

Reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, surely qualifies.

Nine million children depend on CHIP, which provides insurance to minors whose families are not quite poor enough for Medicaid but who still can't afford private insurance.

The 20-year-old program has historically received bipartisan support. But its federal funding lapsed in September and has yet to be renewed by Congress, which has been too preoccupied with cutting taxes for billionaires.

Lawmakers' inaction has left millions of children, including some in the middle of lifesaving care such as cancer treatment, in limbo. As Congress squabbles and delays, states have temporarily extended this critical program using reserve funds or money from other sources, but dollars are rapidly running out.

A third of states are expected to exhaust their funding by Jan. 31, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By March 31, three-quarters of states will have to shutter their programs.

Yet another actual policy emergency involves the fate of "dreamers."

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These are the nearly 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. In September, the Trump administration announced that it would rescind the Obama-era program that allows them to stay, work and contribute to the economy. Congress has until March to pass a law shielding them from deportation and preventing them from slipping back into the shadows.

Once again, the vast majority of Americans -- including three-quarters of Republicans -- support extending protected status for these young people. But once again, Congress has left this prerogative on the back burner, prioritizing tax cuts instead.

Other pressing priorities might include the $94 billion aid package requested by Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced and the power grid is still operating at just 70 percent of capacity.

Or maybe dealing with the nation's crumbling infrastructure, a problem made more salient by Monday's Amtrak derailment. Or passing bills to stabilize the individual health-insurance market, given the havoc the Trump administration has wreaked on the Obamacare exchanges.

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