Congressional Lawmakers Running Up Against Deadline To Keep Government Funded
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And we begin with the latest on efforts to keep the federal government from shutting down. As the sun rose here this morning, it looked - looked - as though lawmakers were on track. The plan - a short-term bill that would keep the government open until the middle of February. But then the president weighed in. In a series of tweets this morning, he appeared to contradict the plans that fellow Republican leaders had put forward. NPR's Kelsey Snell is keeping track of all of this at the Capitol. Hi, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: All right, what happened today? What did the president tweet?
SNELL: So let's go back in time a little bit and remember why Republicans are pairing this spending bill with a six-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program. It's also known as CHIP. They did that in part so that it would be harder for Democrats to vote no. Nobody really wants to be seen as voting against health insurance for low-income children.
So the president started the day today tweeting that, quote, "CHIP should be a part of a long-term solution, not a 30-day or short-term extension" - exclamation point. He also tweeted in a second tweet demanding that the spending bill include money for a wall along the border with Mexico. And that kind of directly contradicts everything that the leaders in Congress were trying to get done.
KELLY: Right. This has been part of this whole saga - is whether the spending bill should just be the spending bill or what parts of an immigration reform bill it should also include as well. So the president tweets this morning. How have lawmakers responded? I mean, what does this do to the negotiations that were underway?
SNELL: Well, the White House eventually walked it back, and so did House Speaker Paul Ryan. He had his weekly press conference today where he meets with all of us reporters on Capitol Hill. And he said that he had spoken with the president, and he thought everything was fine. Here's what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PAUL RYAN: I've spoken with the president. He fully supports passing what we're bringing to the floor today.
SNELL: But the morning scramble added a new layer of chaos to what was already an - very shaky situation. Several Democrats responded by saying that they would vote against the bill. That includes both senators from Virginia. And some Republicans admitted that it really makes it harder when they don't know what the president's position's going to be. And that's been a running theme here - is they get into a situation; they think they're negotiating, and then the president tweets, or the president does something. And then they're not sure where things are headed. And they need him to sign bills.
KELLY: But if I'm hearing you right, it sounds like the White House is now walking back this tweet, saying, nothing to see here folks; let's focus on the proposal that was out there.
SNELL: Right. And that is what they said, and they're moving forward. The legislation passed an important procedural hurdle earlier today, and we're heading towards the next steps.
KELLY: So this is - the House has the spending bill. We wait to see what the Senate will do. Is that right?
SNELL: Right. So after this procedural vote that happened earlier today, we will see the House vote again later on final passage. They have to approve the final bill, and there are still conservatives who say they don't want to vote for this. And a number of senators on both sides say they won't vote for a short-term spending bill. They're relying on the idea that nobody wants a shutdown. And in fact, some people get really frustrated when we ask them about it. Take Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHN KENNEDY: Our first job is to keep government going. And if you're going to shut her down, it better be for a damn good reason. And I haven't heard one yet.
SNELL: And that's pretty common kind of response. But Democrats are really starting to agitate for an even shorter spending bill 'cause they think it would force the White House to cut a deal on immigration, and they don't really trust Trump's promises to get something done later. So this idea of a shorter-term spending bill, you know, might drag this out even longer.
KELLY: All right, Kelsey, it sounds like we'll be talking to you all through the night...
KELLY: ...And tomorrow, too. NPR's Kelsey Snell reporting on another rocky day on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.
SNELL: Thank you.
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