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Government shutdown: Trump tweets cause chaos for Republicans as they scramble to pass spending bill

The White House was forced to quickly do damage control

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Friday 19 January 2018 01:25 GMT
President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (AP)

A tweet from President Donald Trump has thrown Republican plans to avoid a government shutdown into chaos by contradicting his own administration.

Congress has been scrambling to pass a short-term measure before a shutdown comes into effect on Saturday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “we’re in very good shape” for passage of a spending bill that would keep the government running for another four weeks. The measure would next head to the Senate, where it faces a more uncertain future.

But before any votes had even occurred, Mr Trump seemed to blow up Republican leaders’ plan when he tweeted that a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program should not be part of the spending measure being put to the House.

“CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!” the president wrote.

The White House was quickly forced to do some damage control, putting out a statement that said Mr Trump supports the House effort to avert a government shutdown.

“The President supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said. “Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two-year budget caps deal. However, as the deal is negotiated, the President wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats.”

Since September, Congress has already passed multiple short-term spending bills, known on Capitol Hill as “continuing resolutions” - or CRs – to try to keep negotiations on immigration alive.

“It’s a mess,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “We can’t keep careening from short-term CR to short-term CR. If this bill passes, there will be no incentive to negotiate and we will be right back here in a month with the same problems at our feet.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his colleagues “on the other side of the aisle do not oppose a single thing in this bill.”

He continued: “They know they can’t possibly explain to our warfighters and veterans, to our seniors, to our opioid treatment centers, to the millions of vulnerable children and their families who depend on S-CHIP for coverage, or to all the Americans who rely on the federal government for critical services like food inspections and Social Security checks.”

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr Trump said that if there was a government shutdown for any reason, “the worst thing is what happens to our military. “

“If the country shuts down, which could very well be, the budget should be handled a lot differently than it’s been handled over the last long period of time — many years,” Mr Trump said.

While past shutdowns have done little lasting economic damage, they can hurt federal workers, rattle markets and shake confidence in the US abroad.

House Speaker Paul Ryan predicted that the four-week continuing resolution would pass – despite lingering uncertainty over whether enough votes in the 435-member chamber had been secured.

“I have confidence we’ll pass this because I think members understand, ‘Why on earth would we want a government shutdown?’” the Wisconsin Republican said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has said Democrats will oppose the short-term spending bill.

In an attempt to deter Democrats from voting against it, Republican leaders had added a measure to the bill that would extend the children’s health insurance programme for six years. Democrats had fought to continue federal funding for the programme that serves nearly 9 million children. Federal financing for it expired in October and several states are close to exhausting their money.

If the spending bill passes in the House, it will then head to the Senate, where Democrats have already indicated they have enough support to block it.

Virginia’s two Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine – originally seen to be among the most likely ‘yes’ votes in the upper chamber – have announced their opposition.

Republican leaders need the support of at least nine Democratic senators for the bill to pass.

“Congress should remain in session with no recess until we work out a long-term bipartisan budget deal that addresses all issues,” Mr Warner and Mr Kaine said in a joint statement.

Over the past few weeks, several Democrats have made it clear they won’t be keen to vote for another spending measure unless they receive assurances that there will be a permanent legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, or DACA. The programme, which expires in March, allowed young immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents to secure work permits and deportation reprieves.

Negotiations on any immigration deal have been complicated by Mr Trump’s commitment to build a wall along the US’s southern border – a barrier that Democrats vehemently oppose and would cost billions of dollars to construct.

“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Mr Trump tweeted earlier on Thursday. “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

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