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Feeding babies

The federal government partial shutdown, while already affecting many in northwest Kansas, was reaching new levels of low late last week.

The latest target was low-income Kansas women who either are pregnant or recently had a child, and eligible children younger than 5. Participants in the federal Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program visiting the Ellis County Health Department last week discovered their checks for November and December were not being issued. If they already had been issued, women were being told to just hang on to them for now.

Ellis County, with more than 350 clients enrolled in the program, is not alone. The entire state network, which has approximately 70,000 monthly participants and relies on federal funds, is on the verge of shutdown itself.

"You have to understand all of this is being held now because of what's going on in Washington," said Lynda Arnhold, office manager at the Ellis County Health Department. "If they get that settled in the next few days or next week, this could all go back to normal."

How political bickering in the nation's capital could break the system so badly that babies have the potential to go hungry is beyond us. Actually, we do understand how that has happened. The tea party Republicans are so insistent that some of these very same clients should not have access to health insurance, they don't seem to care how real Americans are affected.

A press release issued Friday from Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., indicated his concern about any possible deal being pursued that would end the shutdown and avert the nation's first default while retaining "nearly all of ObamaCare."

"If true," the statement offered, "such an abandonment of conservative principles would dispirit, dismay and anger the entire conservative base of the Republican party -- and for any of my colleagues pushing such a deal, it would seriously jeopardize their future chances of becoming elected leadership in the House. Now is the time to stand firm -- not capitulate to the Left."

The First District congressman was threatening political payback to anybody who might be more interested in helping feed pregnant women from his own hometown.

Even the governor, who's shown little compassion for low-income Kansans through various policy shifts and new laws, was attempting to minimize the more egregious effects of the federal impasse. Gov. Sam Brownback ordered various departments to use state reserves to fund various programs, including WIC and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The governor also brought back most of the Department of Labor employees who were furloughed so the department can process benefits for unemployed workers.

But even Topeka's assistance, as welcome as it is, will be short-lived.

Rep. Huelskamp and fellow tea partiers need to end their quixotic pursuit before the first Kansan woman or child goes without their daily nutitional intake.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net