President Donald Trump on Thursday undermined efforts by House Republican leaders and his own staff to avoid a government shutdown, criticizing a decision to include an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in a GOP-crafted stopgap spending bill.
Hours later the White House announced the president supported the House GOP-crafted stopgap spending measure that includes a six-year CHIP extension — despite a confusing morning tweet that raised questions to the contrary.
The president, after first contradicting his own chief of staff via Twitter on Thursday morning, fired off another post expressing his view that a CHIP extension should not be part of a four-week stopgap measure on which the House is slated to vote later in the day.
The president wrote that any provision extending the children’s program “should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”
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 White House came back with this statement:
“The president supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House. 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 is funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said.
The president’s tweet confused efforts on the Hill among House GOP leaders’ attempts to find the votes Thursday evening to pass the bill, which must be signed by Trump by 11:59 p.m. ET Friday night to prevent a government shutdown. The stopgap’s six-year CHIP extension is intended to be a sweetener to help attract the needed votes — including possibly Democratic votes to push it across the finish line should too few GOP members support it.
The cleanup operation by GOP leadership aides began quickly.
Brett Horton, a top aide to House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, tweeted his view that folks are “misreading this.”
“The president wants a long term reauthorization (solution) for CHIP, and this CR does exactly that. Supporting this CR = supporting long term solution. Opposing this CR = nothing on CHIP, states running out of money, etc.,” Horton wrote.
Another senior Republican aide said it was unclear if Trump understands that the CHIP extension in the Republican-crafted stopgap spending bill would cover six years.
Watch: Clock’s Ticking on Deal to Dodge a Government Shutdown
The president also undermined his own staff with the tweet. On Wednesday evening, the Office of Management and Budget released a “statement of administration policy” document that expressed the White House’s support for the CHIP extension funding.
On Wednesday, a White House official told Roll Call around midday that Trump supported the CR as written — including the health insurance provision.
About an hour later, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, at her daily briefing, reiterated that the White House supports the GOP-crafted four-week CR, but said it isn’t the administration’s “first choice.” That remains a two-year “clean budget deal,” followed by a measure that includes a fix for DACA and other immigration issues, Sanders added.
But as of Wednesday night, White House aides were making clear they thought Trump would reluctantly sign the House CR, if both chambers sent it to his desk. That was immediately made unclear with one tweet the next morning.
Sanders and Raj Shah, her top deputy, have not yet responded to multiple emails requesting clarity on Trump’s position.