Senate Leader de León Issues Challenge to U.S. Senate and House Democrats

Monday, December 04, 2017

SACRAMENTO – California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), leader of the California State Senate, author of the California Values Act (SB 54), and long-time immigrant rights advocate, released the following statement today:

“While it has become the new normal for Republicans in Congress to regularly threaten to shut down the federal government to advance their cynical agenda to hurt the middle class, some Democrats seem unwilling to lay down their own ultimatum to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of families and children currently hanging in the balance.  

“After promising comprehensive immigration reform that never materialized when Democrats controlled Congress, Democrats in Washington DC cannot fail us again. Enough is enough.

“I call on Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House, especially California Democrats, to stand strong and refuse to vote on any continuing resolutions or a short-term appropriations plan that does not include permanent protections as promised under DACA for 800,000 Dreamers or reauthorization of health care as promised under CHIP for nine million American children. 

“Additionally, any agreement must not squander a single penny on President Donald Trump’s utterly asinine border wall.       

“The Trump Republicans have repeatedly proven wholly incapable of reason, empathy or negotiation in good faith.  The time has come for Democrats to draw a line in the sand, not continue to stick their heads in it.”


Background on the Children’s Health Insurance Program:

The current gridlock in Congress has jeopardized a program that provides health coverage for children.  This program, referred to as the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP is a federal and state partnership that provides states with funding for no-cost or low-cost health insurance to children and pregnant women in families with income too high to qualify for the Medicaid program and as high as 266% of the federal poverty level.

In California the program covers nearly 1.3 million children under 19 years of age so that they can get routine check-ups, immunizations, hospital coverage, mental health services and dental care to keep them healthy. States are given the option of establishing a separate health insurance program or expanding their Medicaid program.  California originally established a separate health insurance program but in 2012 California opted to transition most children to the Medi-Cal program.  These children constitute 25% of the children enrolled in Medi-Cal and continue to receive full-scope medical, dental and mental health benefits.

Federal authorization for CHIP expired September 30th.  States with a separate CHIP program will run out of funding and will be forced to drop children and pregnant women from. States, such as California, that have made their CHIP program part of their Medicaid program will not need to eliminate coverage.  Instead, it will cause a huge budgetary hole.  This is a result of the enhanced funding that is part of the CHIP program.  This is how it works---traditional Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) is matched with 50% state and 50% federal funding.  The original CHIP program  provided an enhanced match of  65% with states required to pay 35%.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) increased the rate by 23 percentage points, raising California’s rate from 65% to 88%.

The ACA requires California to maintain the coverage for these children (called a Maintenance of Effort or MOE) through at least 2019. If CHIP is not reauthorized, the children and pregnant women will stay on Medi-Cal but the rate will be reduced to 50% instead of the current 88% for CHIP.  Therefore, CA’s cost would go from about $364 million at the 88% CHIP match to about $1.5 billon, well over a $1 billion increase in state costs on an annual basis. California would be forced to make cuts elsewhere, such as Medi-Cal provider rates or higher education to keep the budget in balance.

Background on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals:

Established in 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allowed certain individuals who entered the country or remained in the country without authorization to apply for deferred action from deportation and work authorization.  In order to be eligible, applicants had to submit a background check and pay a $495 application fee.  Under DACA, nearly 800,000 young people who came to the United States as children are able to live, work, and study without fear of deportation.  But the Trump Administration’s termination of the program has put these young people in jeopardy and no state has more to lose than California, where over a quarter of DACA recipients reside.

Each day approximately 122 people lose their DACA protection because Congress has failed to act on the DREAM Act. 

The clean DREAM Act provides a direct road to U.S. citizenship for people who either are certain undocumented people, including those with DACA or temporary protective status, and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in the military.  The Dream Act of 2017 would do the following:

  • Offer conditional permanent resident status for current DACA beneficiaries and allow other undocumented people to apply for the same status.
  • Permit conditional permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, and eventually citizenship, if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time, or served in the U.S. military.
  • Make undocumented youth eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid provided by states and institutions.