The U.S. Congress appears to be headed for a bumpy year in 2015. A showdown with the White House is on deck as the Republican-controlled House and Senate use their budget leverage to undo the president’s immigration executive orders, his signature health care program and the financial regulations passed during the economic collapse.

But there are still eight session days left on the 2014 congressional calendar, and there is work that could be done before the end of the year. Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is only authorized through September, and the program could get swept up in the dysfunctional free-for-all that Washington has become. By acting now, before the end of the year and before a new Congress is sworn in, lawmakers could take this issue off the table.

There is a good reason to treat this bill differently than those other issues. It has had strong bipartisan support since its passage in 1997.

Despite the similarity in their names, the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act, which gives health insurance to children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, has little in common with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, which uses market reform along with tax credits and penalties to put insurance in reach for people who can’t afford it.

The CHIP program makes thousands of Maine children eligible for subsidized care if they come from families that earn up to 200 percent of poverty, or $31,460 for a parent with one child. The program provides health services tailored for children, including coverage for dental, vision and hearing exams that are not covered by many commercial policies. As of 2013, 8.1 million children were covered by state-run CHIP programs, cutting the uninsured rate for children in half.

The program got tangled in the politics of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Different provisions were made for it in the House and Senate versions of the health bill, but because Democrats were trying to outmaneuver Republican opponents, the bills were merged without going to a conference committee. That left CHIP with money only through September 2015.

The politics are getting confusing. Some people who supported CHIP in the past may try to move those children from programs like MaineCare onto private insurance through the exchanges. But while those plans are a step forward for people who can’t afford insurance otherwise, they would be a step down for children who have been getting better coverage through CHIP.

A 2010 study by the General Accounting Office found that families on exchange plans would be expected to pay more out of pocket in co-pays and cost sharing. For families on the brink of poverty who are eligible for this program, those out-of-pocket costs could get in the way of a medical test or a dental procedure that could prevent a lot of suffering and expense in the future.

Congress is famous for waiting until the last minute to do important business. This is one issue that shouldn’t be pushed to the brink.

It’s beyond dispute that people with health insurance are healthier than those without; that a healthy start in childhood can have positive effects throughout life; that children have no control over their family’s economic situation. Congress can argue over a vast array of issues, but helping to provide health care for children who need it doesn’t have to be one of them.

Congress should use the few days it has left in 2014 to extend funding for this program.