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Facing the prospect of a possible government shutdown, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday to attack Democrats who he says are to blame.
"I promise to rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!" Trump tweeted April 27, one of several he sent out on the subject.
The reality is, it’s possible the government could run out of money and thus shut down if a funding bill isn’t passed by the end of the day Friday, April 28. And while Democrats have a bit of leverage in that fight, Trump far exaggerates the stakes and conveniently leaves out Republicans’ role — as well as his own — in the negotiations.
Here are the relevant Trump tweets and the context you need to understand them:
"The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!"
"I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare."
"What's more important? Rebuilding our military - or bailing out insurance companies? Ask the Democrats."
"Democrats used to support border security — now they want illegals to pour through our borders."
"As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks - Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!"
Are Democrats threatening to shut down the government?
For Trump to say the Democrats "want to shut down the government" is a dramatic way of saying they’re playing hardball.
Even though Republicans control the House and Senate, they need support from at least a few Democrats to be certain that their funding bill will make it to Trump’s desk. Democrats are leveraging the moment.
Democratic lawmakers have said they won’t support a funding bill, which could lead to a shutdown, if Republicans vote on an Affordable Care Act replacement in the next couple of days.
"If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well," Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in an April 27 statement.
Trump and the Republicans have already made two major concessions to Democrats: They won’t use this spending bill to fund the border wall, and the administration will continue to pay out Affordable Care Act-related subsidies. (There seems to be general agreement that swiftly cutting off these subsidies would create chaos in the health insurance market.)
This is why Trump, in his tweets, repeatedly accused Democrats of siding with health insurance companies over efforts Trump supports, like border security and increased defense spending.
How do miners and their health care fit in?
Tangentially related to the government shutdown issue is a not-so-minor problem for retired miners. They receive health insurance through a program that’s set to run out of money April 30 unless lawmakers can extend its funding.
Trump’s tweet that "Democrats are blocking their healthcare" is disingenuous. The senator leading the effort to make funding for the health insurance program permanent is a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The bill Manchin has proposed has 18 Democratic cosponsors, and seven Republicans are also on board.
At an April 26 press conference, Manchin said Trump had called him to say he supports Manchin’s efforts.
What about Puerto Rico?
This is yet another issue lawmakers are throwing into the mix to squeeze as much as they can out of the spending bill negotiations.
Puerto Rico is experiencing a debt crisis. The U.S. territory has to restructure its debt by May 1 or face near certain bankruptcy. Some Democrats want to give Puerto Rico funding to cover its outstanding Medicaid costs, though Trump opposes this effort.
Trump twitter feed, April 27, 2017
AP, "Disputes over abortion, financial rules slow spending bill," April 27, 2017
Washington Post, "Trump blames Democrats for government shutdown threats," April 27, 2017
PBS Newshour, "Coal miners’ much-needed health care collides with budget showdown," April 24, 2017
CQ, news archive search, conducted April 27, 2017
Email interview, GWU politics professor Sarah Binder, April 27, 2017