By Thomas Kaplan
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump blew up Republican strategies to keep the government open past Friday when on Thursday morning he said a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program should not be part of a stopgap spending bill pending before the House.
He wrote on Twitter: “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”
With a possible government shutdown looming this weekend, the House had planned to vote late Thursday on a stopgap spending bill that would keep government funding flowing to Feb. 16 as delicate negotiations continue to protect young, undocumented immigrants brought illegally as children from deportation.
Republican leaders have spent the week pressuring Democrats to vote for the spending bill, arguing that opposing it would effectively block a six-year extension of the children’s health program, attached to the spending bill as a sweetener for lawmakers in both parties.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said on Wednesday that it would be “unconscionable” for Democrats to oppose funding for CHIP with a “no” vote on the short-term spending bill.
But Trump’s tweet appeared to give Democrats a ready excuse to oppose the measure: the president wants the health program severed from the spending bill.
Even if the House manages to pass the bill, the Senate would still need to give its approval in order to avert a shutdown early Saturday morning, and at least nine Democrats are needed to overcome an expected filibuster.
The six-year extension of CHIP funding is important for Democrats, who have strenuously complained that federal funding for the program was allowed to lapse last fall. But Democrats are under heavy pressure to oppose any spending bill that does not protect the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who are now shielded from deportation from an Obama-era initiative that Trump rescinded.
Why the president suddenly undercut Republican arguments was not immediately clear. On Wednesday, the Trump administration released an official statement endorsing the stopgap measure, including the extension of funding for CHIP.
Aside from the sudden debate over children’s health care, the fate of the stopgap measure still seemed uncertain because of resistance within the House Republican conference. Most House Democrats are expected to oppose the bill.