Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Trump adds confusion to government shutdown concern

Published:Friday | January 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, pauses for a reporter's question at the Capitol in Washington, as Congress moves closer to the funding deadline to avoid a government shutdown, in Washington, yesterday. (AP)


Injecting confusion into already-perilous shutdown negotiations, President Donald Trump undercut his own administration's stance by tweeting yesterday that a children's health insurance programme should not be part of a short-term budget agreement.

The president's tweet came as Republicans and Democrats were scrambling to avert the shutdown, which could come at midnight Friday. The administration had previously expressed support for GOP-drafted legislation that includes money for the popular children's programme for six years, a tactic aimed at winning some Democratic support for the bill.

The House was to vote later yesterday.

After Trump tweeted, aides from both parties expressed bafflement at exactly what he meant and why he took his position. It was the latest instance that has raised doubts in Washington about the president's unpredictable approach to legislation, policy and political decisions.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the tweet, which said simply: "CHIP should be part of a long-term solution, not a 30-day, or short-term, extension!"

Just Wednesday, the White House budget office sent Congress a letter expressing support for the overall bill and expressly wrote, "The Administration supports the bill's multiyear funding extension of the Children's Health Insurance Programme (CHIP)."

Federal financing for the programme that serves nearly nine million children expired in October and several states are close to exhausting their money, and Congress has passed several short-term patches to keep their programmes afloat.