The chances of a government shutdown increased Thursday after President Trump rejected a plan crafted by congressional leaders to pair a stop-gap spending bill with a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.
Trump issued the tweet Thursday morning as Congressional leaders were still searching for support for the spending bill hours before a planned vote on the measure ahead of a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown. Republican leaders already appeared to lack enough votes to pass the bill without the support of Democrats.
“CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “A government shutdown will be devastating to our military…something the Dems care very little about!”
CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
The message seemed to directly contradict earlier the White House position of supporting the short-term spending bill. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that the White House backs the stop-gap plan.
“We’d still like to see a clean funding bill, a two-year budget deal, but we do support the short-term CR,” Sanders said. “But we’re going to continue moving forward in that process.
Sanders added that “the president certainly doesn’t want a shutdown.”
Congressional leaders hoped that adding CHIP to the spending bill would help avoid such a shutdown threat. That program has broad bipartisan support and leaders hope Democrats will vote for the measure to avoid voting against benefits for low-income children.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Wednesday that he hopes skeptical Democrats will support the spending bill to ensure that CHIP is extended.
“The Democrats in the Senate have been very consistent in clamoring for addressing the children’s health care program,” McConnell said. “They claim they don’t want to shut down the government, so it seems to me it would be a rather attractive package.”
But the new tweets fueled fresh confusion over what Trump supports in the negotiation and what he will be willing to sign into law.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he was “not sure what the president means” when asked on Fox & Friends. Cornyn said the health insurance program was added to the spending bill to help House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., rally the votes necessary to avoid a shutdown.
“It is not just a 30 day extension,” Cornyn said. “Apparently they feel adding this to it will help them get to 218 votes.”
The last-minute confusion over CHIP further complicates spending negotiations that were stalled when Trump rejected a bipartisan senate immigration plan intended to pave the way for a long-term spending agreement.
The immigration talks stalled last week after Trump rejected a plan proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to pair increased border security with new legal protections and a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 700,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally after being brought here as children.
It was during that meeting that Trump questioned why the U.S. would want more immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa.
A second group of negotiators, led by the second-ranking Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, has stepped in to attempt to craft a new deal but the talks have been largely unsuccessful, according to several aides familiar with the talks.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday that a short-term spending measure will give negotiators more time to craft a bill that satisfies both sides and President Trump.
“I think the fact that we’re in earnest and negotiating in good faith with our four leaders on DACA speaks to the fact that we want to see a solution,” Ryan said. “We will not bring a DACA bill that the president doesn’t support. What point would it be to bring a bill through here that we won’t have signed into law by the president?”
Trump weighed in Thursday, again demanding money for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. 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!,” Trump tweeted.
We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
Democrats say they will not accept any spending bill that funds the construction of a physical border wall but they have been willing to negotiate over money for increased technology and other forms of border security.
One key Democratic divide in the Senate: a tactical split between the Democrats running for reelection this year in states that Trump carried, and the Democrats being mentioned as possible 2020 contenders.
2020 hopefuls like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand all oppose voting for a funding bill, if it doesn’t include permanent protections for DACA recipients. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has advocated for this, too.
“Protecting Dreamers is a moral imperative,” Gillibrand tweeted Wednesday. “I will not vote for a spending bill that doesn’t treat Dreamers fairly.”
Immigration activists have increased the pressure on Democrats to oppose any spending measure while DACA is still unresolved. United We Dream has labeled Democrats who voted for the last funding bill, in December, as the “Deportation Caucus.”
But as possible presidential candidates have upped up their criticism, many of the Democrats up for reelection this year have, for the most part, tried to stay out of the spotlight. North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey were among the Democratic lawmakers avoiding direct answers in recent days on whether they would vote for a funding bill while DACA’s fate hangs in the balance.
In December, seven of the 10 Democrats running in states that Trump won in 2016 voted in favor of the funding bill.
“We’ve got people running for president all trying to find their base, and then you’ve got people from Trump states that are trying to continue to legislate the way we always have – by negotiation,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told the New York Times earlier this week.