President Trump may have furthered the odds of a government shutdown after a tweet sent Thursday morning seemingly rejecting a Republican effort to compromise on children’s health care at the expense of protections for young undocumented immigrants.
“CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!” Trump wrote.
CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
That tweet flies in the face of Republican efforts to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for a period of time in order to garner the votes necessary to fund the government until February. On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed a budget option funding CHIP for another six years. The proposal, which would continue health care benefits for 9 million children, would come at the expense of another vulnerable group: the hundreds of thousands of people previously covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, or DREAMers.
DACA recipients have been in limbo since September, when Trump ended the Obama-era initiative and called for Congress to pass a solution. Those covered by CHIP are also in a state of crisis — Congress failed to reauthorize CHIP last year, leaving states running low on funding for the program. Around 1.9 million children from low-income families could lose their coverage by the end of January alone, with many more at-risk in the months to come.
A number of Democrats have indicated they won’t vote for short-term government funding without a deal on DACA — something House Republicans hoped to undercut with the introduction of CHIP funding.
“Stop the obstruction. Stop the games. There’s no good reason to punish children,” said House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) on Wednesday night. “Not only are they voting to shut down the government, they’re voting to deny children access to critical health care when they need it.”
Rep. Ralph Abram (R-LA), meanwhile, posited the debate as a decision between health care for “our American children” versus support for “illegal aliens.”
But Trump’s tweets seemed to unravel any chances of funding CHIP, contradicting earlier comments. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget initially expressed White House backing for the GOP proposal.
“The Administration supports the bill’s multiyear funding extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If H.J. Res. 125 were presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law,” the statement read.
GOP leaders appeared confused by Trump’s tweet on Thursday, with several sources indicating to reporters that they were unsure what it meant. “Guaranteed the President is misunderstanding what’s going on based on something he saw on TV and we’ll see a corrective tweet in the next hour or so,” one lawmaker told Vox.
At the moment, the Republican leadership is split on Trump’s CHIP tweet. Some are hoping it’s like FISA, where he tweeted and then took it back. others genuinely have no idea what he means
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) January 18, 2018
Others were more open. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) commented that Trump might be unclear about the exact nature of the CHIP extension, a point he fleshed out in a tweet soon afterwards:
The current house Continuing Resolution package has a six-year extension of CHIP, not a 30 day extension
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 18, 2018
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) downplayed concerns over Trump’s comments, saying he was “confidant” a measure would pass and that the president’s tweet “is not causing us problems at all.” The speaker said he had spoken with Trump following the tweet and that the president had expressed support for the funding measure.
But Ryan’s comments fly in the face of indications from other lawmakers. The far-right Freedom Caucus has indicated they have the votes to block any attempted funding, something Democrats are arguing as well.
They have until midnight on Friday.