Budget Bill Passes: CHCs, CHIP, PR & USVI funding authorized; Dreamers not so much

Welp. In the end, enough Democrats joined Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House to pass a massive spending bill in the dead of night. Donald Trump signed it into law early this morning.

Needless to say, I'm not happy at all about a major missing piece of the bill: The DREAM act, which would protect around 690,000 young adults who were brought to the United States as children, was not part of the bill. The Dems in the Senate were able to lock in a formal immigration debate which will presumably be focused in large part on DACA and the Dreamers, but there was no such guaranteed baked in on the House side by Speaker Paul Ryan. Personally, I'm pretty disappointed with the 73 Dems who folded on the issue, but the fight isn't over yet.

Still, this site focuses primarily on healthcare policy, and on that front, at least, there's good news: Along with a whole mess of other stuff, here's some of what is included:

Federal health programs get much-needed funding. Meeting a key Democratic priority, the agreement funnels billions of dollars for several key health-care priorities — funding community health centers for two years, extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program for an additional four years, and staving off several cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that would have been triggered had the caps not been lifted.

“All I can say is the obvious: It’s great to get the funding for these finally nailed down,” said Tim Jost, a health-care expert at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. “It finally brings stability to some very important health-care programs.”

About $7 billion will be spent on the community health centers, which provided care to 26.5 million Americans in 2016. Across the country, about 2,600 of these centers — which primarily help low-income people — would be slated for closure if the federal government stopped funding them entirely.

Congress already agreed to fund the CHIP program in January but only for six years. This deal will extend that to 10 years.

The deal also gives an extra $2 billion a year in 2018 and 2019 to help the Department of Veterans Affairs with its health-care backlog.

Help for Puerto Rico. The spending package would provide nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas — areas still trying to recover from devastating hurricanes last year. That is more than double what the Trump administration initially requested.

About $16 billion of that money is expected to go to Puerto Rico, as swaths of the island continue to deal with power outages and a lack of safe drinking water, said Ramón Luis Nieves, a former member of the Puerto Rico Senate who has lobbied Congress for more funding for the island. The allocation is still short of the $94 billion that Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said is necessary to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria. (For instance, the deal allocates about $2 billion to repairing the island’s energy grid, while Rosselló has said $17 billion will be necessary.)

“I hope this is just the beginning of trying to comply with the governor’s request,” Luis Nieves said.

...Extra money to fight the opioid epidemic. The deal would funnel $6 billion over two years to fight the opioid crisis with new grants, prevention programs and “law enforcement efforts” across the country. States with the highest mortality rates would get the most federal dollars.

Of course, the military also just got gobs more money, and between last December's $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy & corporations and now this bill, the federal deficit/debt is going into overdrive...but at least a few important items can be scratched off the "To Do" list.