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Trump says shutdown could happen: 'It's up to the Democrats'

  • President Donald Trump, whose party controls both houses of Congress, said "it's up to the Democrats" to avert a government shutdown.
  • Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted against including reauthorization for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program in a short-term bill to avoid a government shutdown.
  • In a bid for Democratic votes, Republicans are including a six-year extension of CHIP in a stopgap bill the House hopes to pass on Thursday.

President Donald Trump said late Thursday morning that a government shutdown "could happen" and that "it's up to the Democrats" to avoid it before a weekend deadline.

Speaking to media on the steps of the Pentagon, Trump pegged the importance of passing a funding bill to the military, which, he said, needs funding and support more than ever.

He also suggested that Democrats wanted to shut down the government to drown out news of companies announcing bonuses and spending initiatives as a result of the new tax law passed late last year.

Republicans, who control the House, Senate and White House, can pass a spending bill in the House with only GOP votes. They will need nine Democratic votes in the Senate to approve a bill in that chamber, if all Republican members support it.

Earlier Thursday, the president added more confusion to Congress' scramble to avoid a government shutdown when he appeared to criticize a key Republican addition to a temporary funding bill.

"CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" the president tweeted.

The continuing resolution introduced by the House — which the chamber aims to vote on Thursday — would fund the government through Feb. 16. It would reauthorize the popular Children's Health Insurance Program for six years and delay some Affordable Care Act taxes.

Republicans saw including a CHIP extension as crucial to winning some Democratic support for the stopgap spending plan. Members of the minority party have threatened to vote against the bill if they cannot also pass a plan this week to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. Democrats have supported reauthorizing the insurance program.

Trump's stance on CHIP may influence some Republicans' votes on the proposal — or give some Democrats cover not to back the bill. The White House did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the tweet.

Later Thursday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it may not have been "clear" to Trump that CHIP would get reauthorized for six years under the short-term spending bill, according to NBC News. He then sent a tweet clarifying that point.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump supported the House bill.

The confusion came as Congress barreled toward the deadline to fund government agencies or see some of them shut down on Saturday. The State Department is preparing for a shutdown, according to a federal employee who spoke to CNBC.

Later Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump's tweet is "not causing us problems at all." He added that he was confident the House would pass the spending bill on Thursday.

Some Republicans have signaled they could vote against the short-term spending bill. House conservatives and some Democrats have opposed another short-term funding extension.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday he would not vote for another temporary spending plan, saying: "We've just got to let folks in this body know enough is enough."

As the maneuvering continues, both major parties have started to cast blame on the other side for a possible shutdown. In a separate tweet Thursday morning, Trump said a shutdown "would be devastating" to the U.S. military, "something the Dems care very little about!"

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that holding up government funding "for deadlines that don't even exist this Friday" makes "no sense." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also accused Democrats of "manufacturing a crisis" on immigration, as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ended by Trump does not start to wind down until March 5.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that a shutdown "will fall squarely on the majority leader's shoulders and the president's shoulders."

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