Trump baffles GOP with tweet scrambling shutdown talks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Pawlenty loses comeback bid in Minnesota Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE undermined his own party’s plan to avert a looming government shutdown on Thursday after tweeting that a key Democratic bargaining chip shouldn’t be attached to the funding package.

The 17-word tweet threw Capitol Hill into a state of confusion ahead of what is already expected to be a tight vote in the House on Thursday night. Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were trying to decipher what exactly the president meant by declaring that a popular children’s health-care program should be part of a “long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension.”

The strategy Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (R-Wis.) and his leadership team are pursuing would attach a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to a stopgap government funding measure as a way to sweeten the pot for wary Democrats in both the House and Senate.

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But Democrats have been cool to the proposal, arguing Republicans have shut them out of talks and voicing frustration that the bill does not deal with young immigrants known as “Dreamers” who face deportation beginning as early as March because of Trump’s decision to end an Obama-era program sheltering them.

Trump’s early morning tweet — the second in as many weeks that appeared to contradict the GOP’s strategy ahead of a key House vote — comes as House GOP leaders are still scrambling to lock down last-minute votes for a one-month continuing resolution. Current government funding runs out Friday at midnight.

Trump “needs to wake up!” a senior House GOP lawmaker said after the president’s tweet in a rare fit of frustration.

“I have no idea what he means by his tweet,” another House Republican chimed in. “A six-year long-term extension is pretty significant.”

“I’m baffled by it honestly,” added a senior House GOP aide. “It certainly doesn’t help or look good.”

 
"I couldn't believe it," he told The Hill. 
 
Upton then pulled out his phone to show his own tweet urging support for CHIP, which he felt he needed to put out after Trump's comments. 

Ryan, however, was more sanguine.

“It's actually not causing us problems at all,” he told reporters at a news conference, noting that he had spoken to Trump on Thursday morning. 

Thursday’s confusion hearkened back to last week, when another Trump tweet set off panic on Capitol Hill just three hours before the House was set to vote on controversial legislation to renew the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program.

As the White House whipped support for the NSA bill, Trump slammed the law by saying it may have been used by the Obama administration “to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign.”

After a series of emergency phone calls, Republicans sorted out the confusion and managed to pass the reauthorization.

GOP leaders sought to do the same damage control Thursday after Trump’s CHIP tweet.

“I am sure where he stands. He fully supports passing this legislation,” said Ryan, who added that Trump made it clear to him that he supports the House GOP’s strategy.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynIt’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy Archivist rejects Democrats' demand for Kavanaugh documents Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing MORE (Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, also quickly attempted to clarify the president’s statement.

“The current house Continuing Resolution package has a six-year extension of CHIP, not a 30 day extension,” Cornyn wrote on Twitter.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTop Republicans concerned over impact of potential Trump drug rule The Hill's Morning Report — Trump to GOP: I will carry you Treasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law MORE (R-Utah) said the Finance Committee Chairman was “working with the White House this morning to get clarification.”

The White House, in a statement, said Trump backs the House GOP bill. The statement did not mention the children’s health program.

“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,” Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, said in the statement.

“However, as the deal is negotiated, the president wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Trump’s tweet will have any impact on the still-fluid whip House count. But the fiasco certainly created new, unexpected headaches for Ryan and his top lieutenants, who are already facing resistance from some conservatives and defense hawks over the temporary funding patch.

The stopgap measure — the fourth temporary funding bill since September — would keep the government funded through Feb. 16, right before Presidents Day weekend. In addition to the CHIP provision, it also would delay three ObamaCare taxes, sweeteners meant to lure additional conservative support.

Sources on the GOP whip team said they felt good about their initial vote count taken Wednesday afternoon but acknowledged they were still working to pick up additional votes.

GOP leadership expects the funding bill to pass the House later Thursday, albeit narrowly.

“We are full steam ahead,” a GOP leadership source said.

There’s greater uncertainty in the Senate. GOP leaders are betting that enough Senate Democrats — especially those up for reelection in states won by Trump — will end up supporting the funding package, especially since it includes CHIP funding.

The last continuing resolution, which Congress passed before Christmas, only included a temporary extension of the expired children’s health program.

But Senate Democrats are drawing a harder-line over the latest stopgap spending bill, demanding that it include relief for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

Virginia Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerEurope a cautionary tale for privacy, not a guiding light Dustbin 2020: The best Dems who surely won’t get the nomination WikiLeaks says Senate panel requested Assange testimony for Russia probe MORE and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineKaine: Trump has made 'concerted effort' to divide people based on race Sunday shows preview: Virginia lawmakers talk Charlottesville, anniversary protests Corey Stewart blames 'ass hurt' Republicans for negative press coverage MORE, who supported the last stopgap spending bill, were the latest Democrats to come out against the new one Thursday morning.

“I think a shutdown is likely. Senate Democrats are not likely to provide the [nine to 11] votes” needed to break a filibuster, a top Democratic source told The Hill. “The Senate is going to shut down unless something major changes before Friday night.”  

Senate GOP leaders need to lean on Democrats for even more votes since several Republicans are opposed to the short-term measure, including Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House staff offered discounts at Trump's NJ golf club: report Graham: DOJ official was 'unethical' in investigating Trump campaign because his wife worked for Fusion GPS Sunday shows preview: Virginia lawmakers talk Charlottesville, anniversary protests MORE (R-S.C.) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsTougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing Tenn. Republicans to go on offense against Dem MORE (R-S.D.).

And Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP senator: Republicans should not be 'okay' with Trump calling Omarosa a dog Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report Arpaio says he misheard Sacha Baron Cohen questions MORE (R-Ariz.) is undecided, while Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEx-Virginia GOP Senate candidate shares offensive voicemail allegedly left by Charlottesville rally organizer Facebook cracks down on 3D guns Exclusive: Bannon blasts 'con artist' Kochs, 'lame duck' Ryan, 'diminished' Kelly MORE (R-Utah) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRepublicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report Ex-Virginia GOP Senate candidate shares offensive voicemail allegedly left by Charlottesville rally organizer GOP leaders: No talk of inviting Russia delegation to Capitol MORE (R-Ky.) are perennial “no” votes on stopgap spending bills.

But there is hope that if some House Democrats help pass the spending bill, which is a possibility, then it could be tougher for Senate Democrats to block the funding patch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the House continuing resolution seems like it should be “a rather attractive package” for Democrats, citing the CHIP funding.

“I'm certainly going to take up what the House sends us. The Democrats in the Senate have been very consistent in clamoring for addressing the children's health care program. This does it with a six-year reauthorization,” McConnell said Wednesday.

Cristina Marcos contributed

Updated at 1:11 p.m.