Sometimes I feel like a broken record, arguing repeatedly that Congress should stop leaving ordinary people in the lurch by using popular programs as bargaining chips in contentious negotiations. But then I think of the people who rely on these programs, as well as the officials who keep providing services in the face of unnecessary uncertainty. So here I go again.
Congress finally reauthorized the Children's Health Insurance Program during its most recent vote to end the brief government shutdown, more than three months after it had expired and as states were preparing to cut some kids off. But it left another vital part of the safety net, one that is just as popular across party lines as CHIP is, in budgetary limbo.
Funding for community health centers, which serve some 385,000 low-income patients at 250 facilities in Louisiana alone, also expired Sept. 30, and while the money has continued to dribble in through temporary grants, that's no way to run a vital government service.
The program is one line item in the current negotiations over keeping the government open, and chances are that it will get funded this time around. Everyone involved says that's what they want, and recently both of Louisiana's Republican senators signed on to a rare bipartisan letter in support of funding.
But like CHIP, it never had to come to this. And in a competent government not beset by paralyzing partisanship, it wouldn't have.
So when politicians start crowing about how they saved community health centers, just remember: By delaying this long, they're the ones who put them at risk in the first place.