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Trump, Democrats face off over potential government shutdown

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will face off with Democratic leaders of Congress on Thursday in a high-stakes White House meeting intended to bridge differences over a spending bill and preventing a government shutdown.

U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will join Trump and Republican congressional leaders for talks after canceling a similarly planned meeting last week when the president posted a note on Twitter attacking their policy positions.

Trump and Congress are facing a deadline of midnight Friday to pass new spending legislation or trigger the closure of many federal offices.

A bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 22 easily cleared a procedural hurdle in the House, setting up a vote on passage later on Thursday.

If the Senate goes along, as expected, the White House and congressional leaders will have to intensify negotiations on a series of contentious issues in order to come up with the next government funding bill that would stave off partial shutdowns on Dec. 23.

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.”

On Thursday, Schumer said Trump seemed to be rooting for a shutdown and if one occurs, “it will fall on his shoulders.”

“His party controls the Senate, the House and the presidency,” he said. “Nobody here wants to see a shutdown. We Democrats are not interested in one.”

The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on Thursday on a bill that would keep the government open at current spending levels through Dec. 22 while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term solution.

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by ‪Vice President Mike Pence‬, delivers remarks recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The legislation will include some short-term help for states running out of money to finance a health insurance program for lower-income children.

A House procedural vote on the measure is expected around 1:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT), with a vote on passage possible around 4:30 p.m. ET (2130 GMT).

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he felt good about the vote count on the spending bill.

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.

Pelosi said Democrats were not willing to down the government over the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, but she also said “we will not leave here without a DACA fix.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators to support the stop-gap funding bill he expects the House to send over.

He said the measure will provide more time for bipartisan work on addressing “a number of the priorities of our nation in the coming weeks.”

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 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 defense, and they also want work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is a government health insurance program 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.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alistair Bell

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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