Cramer: Fear mongering now defines the Democratic Party
Former Democratic State Legislator Ben Hanson recently wrote a letter to the editor about Congress' efforts to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program that was so full of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talking points he could be charged with plagiarism. Hanson's diatribe simply restated the same old tired lies and fear mongering that has come to define the Democratic Party.
The one truthful statement in his ranting was that CHIP debate this year has become too partisan. In fact, reauthorization in the House was delayed because Republican leaders, knowing the states have large surpluses in their accounts, rescheduled votes since Democratic leaders chose to not cooperate in finding a way to adequately fund this important program designed to provide health insurance for children of modest income families. When it was clear Democrats were bent on using children as political pawns, we had to act unilaterally by passing a bill and extending the program.
In the Senate committee, leaders from both parties were able to come to agreement on reauthorizing and funding CHIP for five years. There's just one problem with the bipartisan Senate bill, it isn't paid for. In fact, the deliberators in the "upper chamber" never even attempted to provide actual money.
Our fully paid-for HEALTHY KIDS Act reauthorizes CHIP for five years and provides additional safeguards for low income children and flexibility for states. The language extends Express Lane Eligibility, the Qualifying State Option and the Child Contingency Fund for five years. We delay cuts to the Disproportionate Share Hospital payments benefitting North Dakota's rural hospitals and we save taxpayer dollars by requiring Medicare recipients earning more than half a million dollars annually to pay a modest premium increase. High-income earners will pay an additional $135 per month in premiums for Medicare. The bill also makes it easier for states to remove Medicaid coverage for lottery winners who no longer need government-backed health insurance.
It is these "pay-fors" Democrats objected the loudest to in the recent eight-hour Energy & Commerce Committee Markup. It is ironic that liberals like Hanson oppose a modest fee increase on millionaires to help pay for children's health care. Equally surprising is their opposition for a bill that maintains DSH funding to keep hospitals above water that serve a disproportionately large number of low-income Medicaid individuals.
The behavior of Democrats in this debate may be the most revealing evidence yet, that they'd rather use health care as a wedge than a solution. In fact, the Democrat on our committee who did the most talking during the markup was none other than the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who wanted to talk about private jet travel more than children's health care. This shameful behavior by Luján, Pelosi, and now Hanson is exactly what is wrong with politics today.
While Hanson engages in hyper-partisan demagoguery, I will continue to work with willing colleagues in both or either party to find and fund solutions.
Cramer represents North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives.