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Immigration is likely to overshadow health care this month. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Congress still has the same long list of health care problems to solve as it has had since the fall. The Children's Health Insurance Program needs to be reauthorized, the individual insurance market likely needs to be stabilized, and the health care industry really wants some Affordable Care Act taxes to be delayed. But it's unclear how much of that will be addressed this month.

Be smart: The big political fight this month is much more likely to be around immigration than health care, although Democrats — or even key Republicans — could use their leverage to get CHIP funding reauthorized, as well.

What to watch: The GOP will need Democrats' support to pass a spending bill. But you can only win so many battles at once, and Democrats are fighting this month to raise domestic spending caps, pass an immigration measure and pass a CHIP bill — or at least to find an agreement in all these areas.

  • Every staffer and lobbyist I asked says immigration will be a bigger fight than health care.
  • The Alexander-Murray ACA stabilization bill is losing steam. Democrats don't want it any more, saying it won't do much good now that Congress has repealed the law's individual mandate. Conservatives have always been skeptical of the bill. Sen. Susan Collins was promised a vote on Alexander-Murray in return for her vote on the GOP tax bill — but she has already voted for the tax bill. Alexander-Murray "needs to be massively rewritten to deal with the lack of an individual mandate," a Democratic leadership aide told me. Sen. Patty Murray, one of the bill's authors, said a very similar thing last month. Health policy experts have also soured on the measure.
  • Congress passed a short-term CHIP bill before leaving for the holidays, so there's less of a time crunch now. But Democrats could easily make it into a big deal, potentially creating public pressure to get it done.
  • The medical device industry and health insurers really want their respective ACA taxes delayed. Yet Congress is only quietly dealing with these in the committees of jurisdiction; they don't seem to be a priority for anyone at the moment.
  • Several other health care issues are buried even further down, like retrospectively ending cuts to disproportionate share hospital payments and potential Medicare cuts to the home health and nursing home industries.

Yes, but: Republicans have been laser-focused on taxes for the past few months, and now that's over with. It's also not just Democrats who are annoyed CHIP hasn't been dealt with yet.

  • Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch slid into his retirement announcement yesterday an assurance that CHIP is "to be reauthorized this month."

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.