WASHINGTON, D.C.: The US House of Representatives passed a stop-gap funding measure late Thursday that would avert a government shutdown, sending it to the Senate where Democrats have vowed to block it.
With the federal government set to run out of money Friday at midnight—the eve of the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration—the bill cleared the House with a 230-197 vote.
But prospects appeared gloomy in the Senate, where Democrats eager for leverage on budget and immigration deals were intent on shooting it down.
“The House just did the right thing—for our men and women in uniform AND for the millions of children who rely on CHIP,” tweeted House Speaker Paul Ryan following the vote, referring to a popular children’s health insurance program.
Ryan urged Senate Democrats to “do the right thing by the American people.”
President Trump on Thursday added to the chaos gripping Washington, weighing in on the intense Republican maneuvering aimed at avoiding a politically embarrassing funding debacle.
After a burst of tweets he second-guessed top Republican lawmakers and slapped down his own chief of staff, who had been leading a White House push on Capitol Hill for a budget compromise.
Arriving at the Pentagon for a visit, Trump told reporters the government “could very well” shut down Friday.
In the event of a shutdown, federal employees for agencies considered non-essential are ordered to stay home until a budget deal is struck, at which point they are paid retroactively. The most recent shutdowns—in 1995, 1996 and 2013—saw some 800,000 workers furloughed per day.
Key government bodies such as the White House, Congress, State Department and Pentagon would remain operational, but would likely furlough some staff. The military would still report for duty, but troops—including those in combat—would potentially not be paid.
The finger-pointing had already begun, with each side blaming the other for a failure to reach a budget compromise after three previous funding extensions.
“A government shutdown will be devastating to our military… something the Dems care very little about!” Trump tweeted in the morning.
And yet in another tweet, Trump criticized the Republican short-term funding measure, opposing a sweetener intended to make it hard for Democrats to vote against it.
The sweetener is a six-year extension of CHIP, a program Democrats have worked hard to protect.
But Trump insisted: “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”
Republican Senator John Cornyn quickly corrected Trump in a counter-tweet: “The current house Continuing Resolution package has a six-year extension of CHIP, not a 30 day extension.”
Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, dismissed the Republicans move on CHIP as “like giving you a bowl of doggie doo, put a cherry on top sundae. This is nothing.”
“This CHIP should have been done in September,” she told reporters.
Up against a similar deadline last month, lawmakers had passed a short-term resolution to keep the federal government funded until January 20.
Many Democrats are already opposed to another short-term fix, leaving Republicans to rely on their own divided caucus to advance the measure.
If it fails, Democrats will gain greater leverage to insist on a funding compromise that includes protection from deportation for the so-called “Dreamers,” the estimated 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
Negotiations on a bipartisan compromise that includes a fix on DACA, as the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program is known, collapsed in acrimony at a White House meeting last week.
Trump’s reported reference to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries” ignited a still-smoldering political firestorm.
White House chief of staff John Kelly met Wednesday with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to make the case that Trump had “evolved” on his signature campaign promise to build a wall the length of the US border.
Funding for border security, but not a full-blown wall, was part of the bipartisan budget compromise presented at last week’s contentious White House talks.
Participants at the meeting with Kelly quoted the retired general and former head of the Department of Homeland Security as saying Trump was not “fully informed” when he made the wall promise.
But Trump hit back on Twitter Thursday: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” he wrote.
“If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!” Trump said in another tweet that described Mexico as “now rated the most dangerous country in the world.”
Mexico once again said it would not pay for the wall, despite Trump’s repeated insistence that it will.
The mixed messages from the White House prompted a rebuke Wednesday from frustrated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
“I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” McConnell told reporters.
“As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.” AFP