Rep. Greg Walden — Oregon's sole Republican member of Congress — claimed a big legislative victory as the three-day government shutdown was ending Monday.
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden played a key role in tying continuation of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, to a bill ending the government shutdown.
“It’s nice to get a critically important health care issue passed and into law and give certainty for families in Oregon," Walden said in an interview with OPB on Monday, hours before Congress sent the measure to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Walden also expressed skepticism about whether Congress could come to any agreements on immigration before the latest government funding extension expires Feb. 8. Congressional Democrats, and some Republicans, pushed hard to provide protection for immigrants brought here illegally by their parents when they were children.
"I think that's pretty unrealistic, if you want to know the truth," Walden said, adding that immigration reform "is tough stuff to get done or it would have been done a long time ago."
The children's health program, which covers about 120,000 children and pregnant women in Oregon, expired at the end of September. Since then, it's been kept alive by stop-gap funding as lawmakers from both sides squabbled over how to pay for it.
Walden chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. Democratic leaders on the committee argued that Walden and other Republicans wanted to gut funding for health programs associated with the Affordable Care Act to pay for CHIP.
Walden scoffed at that and repeatedly accused Democrats of jeopardizing the health of the program's recipients.
The dispute was recently resolved when the Congressional Budget Office said a long extension of the program would actually save money by not forcing recipients into insurance coverage that would have more expensive government subsidies. The bill passed on Monday renews the program for six years.