President Donald Trump will face off with Democratic leaders of Congress today in a high-stakes White House meeting intended to bridge differences over a spending bill and prevent a government shutdown.
US House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will join Trump and Republican congressional leaders for talks after cancelling a similarly planned meeting last week when the president posted a disparaging note about them on Twitter.
Trump and Congress are facing a deadline of midnight today to pass new spending legislation. If they cannot agree on the terms, parts of the federal government could shut down.
Talks with Schumer and Pelosi, whom Trump has referred to as “Chuck and Nancy”, could be the start of a protracted blame game.
The Republican president said on Wednesday that Democrats were looking at something “very dangerous” for the United States: “They are looking at shutting down.”
Pelosi responded in a tweet that Trump was the only person talking about such a scenario.
“Democrats are hopeful the president will be open to an agreement to address the urgent needs of the American people and keep government open,” she wrote.
The meeting is scheduled for 3pm (2000 GMT). The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on a bill that would keep the government open at current spending levels through December 22 while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term solution. The legislation will include some short-term help for states running out of money to finance a health insurance program for lower-income children.
Some conservative Republicans may oppose the spending bill on the grounds that the time period is too short and forces more crucial decision-making right before the holidays. But the measure is expected to pass the House and move to the Senate.
The White House said Trump would sign the stopgap spending measure. Conservative House Republicans said their real focus was on what would happen next.
Going forward, they favor legislation that would hold down spending levels for everything but defence, and they also want work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is a government health insurance programme for the poor and disabled.
“That would be very important to us,” said Representative Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest grouping of conservatives in the House.
Democrats, whose votes will be required to pass the temporary spending measure in the Senate, are pushing their own priorities, including legislative protections for young people brought to the United States illegally as children and healthcare subsidies that Trump has ended for low-income people.
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