GOP faces pressure on community health funding


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Congress has knocked one big item off of its health care to-do list, but there are some other controversial issues lawmakers will need to tackle.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program was funded for six years in the stopgap government funding bill that keeps the government open until Feb. 8, but another major health-care program needs to be extended as well: funding for community health centers.

That is one of the items that could get wrapped up in a future government funding bill, either ahead of the Feb. 8 deadline or in a longer-term spending bill down the road.

Democrats have started hammering home the need for community health center funding.

“I’m very glad we were able to pass the extension of children’s health care, but now we need to work together to tackle those other critical health care issues that Republicans have now allowed to expire, because there’s no excuse for leaving families wondering whether their local health care center will shut its doors,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on Tuesday.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has pushed back on the idea Republicans are to blame, noting that community health center funding was in a bill House Republicans passed in November but that the Senate did not take up.

“Republicans support community health centers and are continuing to work to fund the program for the long term,” Walden wrote in Morning Consult. “I know the ongoing debates have not been easy on the workers at these facilities and the families that rely on them for vital medical care, and I share their frustrations.”

On Monday, the Senate will hold a vote on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a major priority for anti-abortion groups. The bill is not expected to be able to get the 60 votes needed to advance, but it could pose a tough vote both for some red state Democrats and for Republicans who support abortion rights.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and top Democrats are also pushing to pass a pair of bipartisan ObamaCare fixes aimed at stabilizing markets and bringing down premiums.

Those measures are opposed by House conservatives, but Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has shown some openness to at least one of the bills, which provides funding known as reinsurance to bring down premiums.

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