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There's still no long-term solution for CHIP

Congress still isn't sure how CHIP funding is going to play out. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Congress will likely shore up the Children's Health Insurance Program for the next few weeks, but still doesn't have a longer-term plan to fund the program.

The bottom line: A Finance Committee spokeswoman said Chairman Orrin Hatch "remains confident this will be resolved before the year's end." It's very likely to be part of the year-end funding bill. But states are nervous. Lawmakers still haven't agreed on a way to pay for the program, and this is the only time federal CHIP funding has expired except for about a week in 2008.

The short-term spending bill Congress is expected to pass this week includes expanded emergency funds to help states cover shortfalls in their programs. So far, those contingency funds have been enough to prevent any states from running out of CHIP money since federal funding ran out at the end of September. But there's still no deal on a longer-term extension.

The problem: Finding a way to pay for the funding extension. There's been pretty widespread agreement on the actual policy, which would extend CHIP for five years.

The House passed a CHIP bill in November, but most Democrats voted against it because of the revenue sources. The Finance Committee has passed a CHIP bill too, but it doesn't include any offsets.GOP lobbyists are already warning that reauthorization could shorten to only a year or two, because of a lack of revenue sources.Fingers are being pointed everywhere — at the other party and at the other chamber. The most innocuous source of blame is the wild year we've all lived through, with a million things going on at once."The idea that leadership has to get involved to help make final decisions is not really out of the ordinary, but the extent to which they have to do it in this process really does speak to how much the world has changed – that the committees are not responsible for finding the pay-fors for their own policy, therefore they have to be told how much they have," said Rodney Whitlock, a former GOP Finance Committee aide.

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