The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats’ complaints about CHIP funding are hypocrisy in its purest form

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) speaks during a news conference in February. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) voted for rescissions to the Children’s Health Insurance Program as part of the March 2018 omnibus bill. Hoyer voted no on the omnibus bill. This version has be updated.

Mick Mulvaney is director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Just last month, Democratic Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) stated on the House floor, “I wouldn’t irrationally oppose a rescission which said we’ve had money lying in an account that has not been spent for one, two, three years; we shouldn’t just have it sitting in that account.”

About that same time, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) voted to rescind (or, in layman’s terms, to claw back) $6.8 billion worth of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

What Hoyer said — and what Pelosi and Schumer did — weren’t all that controversial; Congress claws back unspent and unspendable funds all the time.

So that makes me wonder: Now that President Trump has suggested we do the exact same thing in the exact same program, why are Democrats opposing his common-sense rescission plan to remove $15.4 billion in unusable funds from CHIP and other programs? Has Democratic obstructionism grown to such perverse lengths that Democrats now oppose the exact things they used to support, just because of who is in the White House?

It’s fascinating to watch Democrats in Congress spin a good-government proposal into a message of grave concern. In this instance, Trump is trying to return unspent government money to the taxpayers, while Democrats are demagoguing the effort as his attempt to hurt innocent children. “Never let facts get in the way of a political attack” appears to be the Democratic mantra.

This is hypocrisy in its purest form.

The president’s plan follows one guiding principle: Money that is sitting in federal agencies and not being spent should be returned to taxpayers. Members of Congress who introduced legislation to support this proposal — ranging from the House Freedom Caucus to the moderate Tuesday Group — agree: It is simply good government. And the president is using this housecleaning tool just as his predecessors, from Ford to Clinton, have done.

Within this first rescissions package, the president proposed to rescind $7 billion from CHIP. Specifically, he proposed to rescind funds from two CHIP accounts that either cannot legally be spent or will not be spent under any projection.

The facts are simple:

First, the proposals will not have any impact on the program or children who receive coverage through CHIP. This was confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office.

Second, one proposal maintains $500 million in the CHIP contingency fund after the rescission. This fund will receive an additional $4.5 billion in October. Since the contingency fund was originally enacted in 2009, only $309 million in total has been awarded to states, and $200 million of what the states have already received remains unspent. Put another way: The $500 million left in the account after the rescission would absolutely cover any possible claims.

Third, and most notably, just two years ago Democrats offered their own amendment to rescind $5.7 billion from CHIP that every Democratic member on the House Appropriations Committee voted for.

So let’s boil it down: Instead of returning unspent funds to taxpayers, Democrats want to preserve rescissions to pay for more government spending in annual spending bills. And why? Perhaps it’s to keep a fake, inflated level of CHIP spending on the books that they can use as an “offset” for unrelated government spending sometime in the future.

Or perhaps, their “resistance” movement has become so ingrained in their party that they are simply incapable of conceiving of a world in which they could work with the president on anything.

Read more:

The Post’s View: Congress’s failure to re-up CHIP funding shows its striking ineptitude

Dorothy R. Novick: Will Congress force me to deny health care to children once again?

Kurt Newman: We created Medicare for the elderly. Why not do the same for children?

Letters to the Editor: Congressional insanity on the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Robert Samuels: Kids’ health insurance hangs in balance, and parents wonder what’s wrong with Congress