January 18, 2018

Shutdown Imminent as GOP Internally Combusts

President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted about the Children’s Health Insurance Program as Congress faces a looming government shutdown. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

A Thursday tweet from the president ran counter to a GOP effort to pair children’s health care funding with a short-term spending extension.

By Gabrielle Levy / 01.18.2018

With Republican leaders’ plans to avoid a government shutdown this weekend by passing a stopgap funding bill already facing daunting prospects, President Donald Trump on Thursday dropped a potential bomb on their efforts with a tweet opposing attaching long-term funding for children’s health care to a short-term spending measure.

House GOP leaders intend to hold a vote late Thursday on an extension of current spending levels through Feb. 16, and planned to use a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to pressure Democrats to vote for it.

But Trump undercut those efforts on Thursday morning, tweeting that “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”

Heading into Thursday, House Republicans did not have support from enough of their own members to pass the short-term bill without Democrats’ help.

Fiscal hawks, largely under the banner of the House Freedom Caucus, have withheld support in an effort to push leadership to pair the short-term bill with funding for the Pentagon for the rest of the fiscal year. Others want a floor vote on a conservative immigration plan.

“At this point, if the vote were to happen today, there’s not the votes to fund it with Republican-only votes,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters after the group met Wednesday night.

Republicans can only afford to lose a reported 21 of their own and still pass the bill without Democratic votes, so the some 30 members of the Freedom Caucus hold significant sway.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had planned to put Democrats in a jam by folding the CHIP extension into the stopgap measure, daring them to vote against it as they have threatened to do unless a deal is reached to restore deportation protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Authorization for CHIP, a popular program which provides health care coverage to 9 million children nationwide, expired in September.

If enough Republicans do get on board to push the bill through the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is facing mounting problems of his own.

On Thursday, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., joined Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to become the second Republican to announce he would vote against another short-term spending bill, which would be the fourth since the new fiscal year began.

“For me, it’s a matter of defense and it’s a matter of trying to make sure that in the future, the message is, ‘Let’s get our work done on time,'” Rounds said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Without Graham, Rounds and GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona – who remains away from Washington to undergo treatment for brain cancer – at least 12 Senate Democratic caucus members would need to vote with Republicans to keep the government open.

Originally published by U.S. News & World Report with permission.