Politics

CHIP, FAA Face Deadlines This Week

Even with typical drama absent, funding cliffs still loom

South Dakota Sen. John Thune chairs the Commerce Committee, which approved an FAA authorization bill earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is spared the usual end-of-the-fiscal-year drama this month, with normal fights over government spending punted until December, but lawmakers still face several deadlines before the Sept. 30 cutoff for fiscal 2017.

With the Republicans’ last-gasp effort to undo the 2010 health care law fizzling, Congress may now try to pass short-term extensions to avoid running aground on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Aviation Administration and community health centers, authorizations for which expire at the end of the month. 

Legislation to renew funding for either CHIP or community health centers has yet to advance out of the committees of jurisdiction in either chamber, raising the stakes that a short-term fix will be needed.

The House could act to pass such a fix for both programs this week, aides said. The chamber has scheduled a vote on a stripped-down, six-month extension for the FAA on the suspension calendar, which is typically reserved for noncontroversial measures.

But it is uncertain whether the Senate would be able to advance similar measures, given the hyperpartisan environment that has currently engulfed the chamber over the GOP’s latest repeal effort.

A bill to renew funding for the FAA has been approved by both the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

CHIPping away

Under CHIP, the federal government pays a percentage of the costs that states accrue. That match rate was bumped up by 23 percent in fiscal 2016 and has been a major point of debate between the two parties.

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission — an independent board of advisers for the program — has estimated that without a renewal, funding in some states could be depleted by early 2018. Governors had called for a swift reauthorization to give states the time to budget for the program next year.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over CHIP, has yet to hold a markup of its bill to renew the program. Aides said it could occur as soon as Wednesday, but cautioned that the health care effort in the Senate could complicate that timeline.

In the Senate, Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon have introduced a bipartisan bill to renew CHIP for five years, but it remains unclear whether such a proposal has enough support to pass either chamber.

The legislation has not yet been reported out of the Finance Committee. It is unlikely the panel will hold a markup of the bill this week.

Along with CHIP, Congress also faces a deadline in renewing the roughly $3.6 billion in annual funding for community health centers, facilities that treat upward of 26 million Americans each year.

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FAA funding grounded?

While both chambers have moved FAA reauthorization measures out of their respective committees of jurisdiction, the products are starkly different.

The House version contains a proposal to privatize air traffic control, a pet project of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. The Senate version does not contain such a measure. Privatization would likely face steep opposition from both parties in that chamber.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are also divided on other provisions in their version of the bill, including one from Commerce Chairman John Thune of South Dakota that would alter a rule that requires commercial airline pilots to perform 1,500 hours of training before becoming certified.

A lapse in funding for the FAA could have some consequences for the aviation industry, but historically, a delay has not significantly affected airline travel.

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