• A Health Care Lifeline that Benefits Us All

    The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides quality affordable care for 10 million kids. Sen. Wyden is leading the fight to extend this program that's so crucial for America's kids. 

    This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on February 22, 2015.


    CHIP: A Health Care Lifeline That Benefits Us All

    By Sens. Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Debbie Stabenow and Bob Casey

    We talk about a lot of issues in the U.S. Senate - taxes, education, ways to smartly balance the use of our natural resources and how to help everybody achieve the American Dream, to name just a few.

    Each one is important and each is worthy of our attention.

    But if you're not healthy - and especially if your children aren't healthy and they don't have access to comprehensive, affordable health care - those matters fade in importance. The quality of health care and our ability to use it touches all of us. And that's why we want to spend a few minutes highlighting the importance of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and why we and other Democrats in the Senate are locking arms tightly to make sure CHIP is here to stay.

    Simply put, CHIP is a success and millions of kids are healthier because of it. CHIP is a federal-state partnership created in 1997 that provides comprehensive and affordable care to 10 million kids who in most cases are in families that earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but too little to be able to afford private health insurance.

    Every state has taken advantage of CHIP and that's one reason the uninsured rate for children has dropped dramatically since CHIP's enactment - from 14 percent in 1997 to a record low of 7 percent in 2012.

    The program has always enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and last year, nearly 40 governors responded to a joint request by the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee for ground-level feedback about CHIP. Support for the program was universal with Democratic and Republican governors alike praising the services CHIP provides and how it is run and managed.

    But here's the catch: Funding for CHIP runs out on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts. We can't let that happen. That's the reason we introduced legislation on Feb. 12 that would guarantee funding for CHIP through 2019. We've named the bill the"Protecting & Retaining Our Children's Health Insurance Program (PRO-CHIP) Act of 2015."

    CHIP_OREGON

    It's a good bill for a great program and there isn't time to waste. Governors have told us in no uncertain terms that they need Congress to act now because now is when most states are finalizing their budgets for the year. Congress needs to act within the next few months so both states and millions of people who depend on CHIP have certainty.

    The bill we've introduced is a path of least resistance and one that senators from both parties can support. It essentially extends the current program - as is - through 2019. This is the same program that nine Republican senators and 40 Republican House members supported in 2009, the last time CHIP was considered by Congress. More recently, governors as diverse as Gary Herbert, a Republican from Utah and Deval Patrick, a Democrat from Massachusetts wrote to Congress last year expressing support for CHIP and urging Congress to extend it as soon as possible. And last month, former Sen. Bill Frist - a Republican, former Senate Majority Leader and a physician - tweeted this: "I fought for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997, and Congress must extend CHIP this year."

    He's right.

    The stakes are high. With CHIP's strong performance over the years and its bipartisan history there is no reason for delay and for doing what's necessary to ensure that 10 million kids continue receiving the comprehensive, affordable care they need.

    Wyden is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. Senators Brown, Stabenow and Casey are members of the Senate Finance Committee.

  • "No" on Keystone XL pipeline, Ron stands up for Oregonians

    Senator Wyden has voted against every Keystone XL pipeline bill the Senate has considered. He knows building the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t about lowering gas prices in Oregon – it’s about padding the profits of foreign oil companies. At a time when the price of gasoline is at its lowest point in years, he opposes building a pipeline that could actually raise gas prices in parts of the U.S.

    In the midst of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline last week, Ron stood up for taxpayers in Oregon and across the country when he led an effort to close an unfair tax loophole that gives millions of dollars to Canadian tar sands oil producers.

    Currently, all other producers transporting oil within the United States pay an 8 cent-per-barrel tax that goes into an oil spill cleanup fund called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Tar sands oil producers do not. This inexplicable loophole leaves U.S. taxpayers on the hook if that oil spills.

    While the Senate was considering the Keystone XL pipeline, another pipeline burst in Montana, spilling more than 50,400 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River on January 17. As Ron noted on the Senate floor, thousands of residents of nearby Glendive, Montana had their water cut off after officials found oil and elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene in their drinking water.

    Ron knows well the carcinogenic dangers of benzene,  having fought hard to get benzene out of Oregonians’ gasoline and drinking water and he promised to fight a Keystone XL pipeline that puts other communities’ water at risk.

    The cleanup from the Montana oil spill is being aided by money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which serves as an immediate source of funding for oil spills. But by allowing tar sands oil producers to avoid paying this tax, the current loophole puts Canadian tar sands producers ahead of the health and safety of local communities.

    Ron offered an amendment to close that loophole, which secured 50 votes from both parties on Jan. 22. However, it was not enough to clear a 60-vote Senate procedural hurdle, so the loophole remains open.

    Ron vowed on the Senate floor to continue fighting until the egregious discrepancy is fixed.

    “I won’t let this issue go until the loophole is closed for good and tar sands producers are paying their fair share,” he said.

    Ron also offered an amendment demanding the Senate acknowledge that the public should get full value for the natural resources U.S. citizens collectively own. Currently, natural gas on federal lands is being wasted through flaring, venting or leaks from domestic oil production. The Department of the Interior is not doing all it can to ensure the U.S. taxpayer gets what they are owed, which could otherwise be used as valuable U.S.-produced energy.

    A recent Government Accountability Office report estimated about $23 million a year is lost in the domestic production of oil and gas on federal lands through leaked or flared natural gas. Unfortunately, Senate Republican leaders did not allow a vote on his amendment.

    Ron cosponsored another bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Michael Bennet, D- Colo., which would have permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The amendment fell one vote short of passing by a vote of 59 to 39 on Jan. 29. The LWCF program helps ensure access to outdoor recreation areas by providing funding to protect public lands and matching state grants. Wyden and Burr led 39 of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to find a permanent funding solution in November.

  • Fighting for opportunities in Oregon

    Senator Wyden held town halls over the weekend in Josephine, Klamath and Lincoln counties where constituents asked about local issues such as the agreement he helped to broker in the Klamath Basin and his work with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives and Oregon congressional delegation to keep the Coast Guard rescue helicopter in Newport.

    Ron had the honor of taking his neighbor, 100-year-old World War II hero Dario Raschio, to lunch at Otto’s -- a must-stop deli in their southeast Portland neighborhood. And on Martin Luther King Day Ron had the privilege of speaking at The Skanner’s annual breakfast in Portland about the need to fulfill Dr. King’s challenge by repairing our nation’s broken criminal justice system and providing equal opportunity for all children to a good education.

    “Stop allowing the size of a parent’s wallet and the color of a child’s skin to determine the quality of a child’s education,” he said at The Skanner breakfast.

    At the Josephine County and Klamath County town halls on Saturday, Ron spoke of the urgent need to pass his O&C Act, which will double harvests and provide a steady supply of trees from federal O&C lands that will mean more jobs and new certainty for the mills and timber companies that rely on federal forests. Owen Dwyer, an eighth grader from Cave Junction, also asked Ron to keep up the fight to preserve net neutrality.

    He also spoke about the water compromise in the Klamath Basin that he helped to work out among tribes, irrigators and conservationists -- a message he emphasized again that evening when he attended the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce’s 94th annual gala in Klamath Falls.

    At the Klamath County town hall, Ron also lauded the efforts by Kaye Cory in the wake of her husband Lyle’s death to ensure veterans like her husband always receive timely and adequate health care from the VA.

    Before Senator Wyden’s town hall in Lincoln County on Sunday, Ron toured the Coast Guard facility in Newport and then met with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives, an essential ally that helped Oregon’s congressional delegation keep the Newport facility open through 2015. The helicopter there is critical for the safety of Oregon fishermen.

    Ron stressed that the fight to stop the Coast Guard from closing the Newport facility last year will allow work throughout 2015 to develop a longer-term solution to keep the helicopter in Newport.

    “This is a life-or-death question,” he said, noting that Coast residents and visitors depend on the rescue helicopters to survive accidents in  the cold waters of the Pacific.

    Senator Wyden has held 718 town halls in fulfillment of his pledge to have annual meetings in each of the state’s 36 counties to hear what is on the minds of Oregonians.