In it, but not of it. TPM DC

President Trump torched Republican leaders’ plans to avoid a government shutdown on Thursday morning with a new demand that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program not be included in any government funding bill, increasing the chances of a government shutdown in less than 48 hours.

GOP leaders had planned to include a six-year extension of funding for the CHIP program as a way to pressure moderate Democrats to vote for a one-month extension of government funding as they scramble for enough votes to avoid a shutdown.

But Trump took to Twitter to question that plan.

The comments left top GOP negotiators scratching their heads — and boosting the risk of a government shutdown after Friday.

“I’m not sure what the President means,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said on Fox News Thursday morning when asked about the President’s new stance — before making the case that CHIP funds should remain in the bill in spite of Trump’s new position.

“What this would do though is it would reauthorize the CHIP program for, I believe, five years. So it’s not just a 30-day extension. But Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy have to figure a way to cobble together the 218 votes. Apparently, they feel like adding this will help them get to that 218 votes,” he said.

Trump’s latest move left other Republicans seething.

House leaders had planned on a vote on that bill as early as Thursday afternoon to try to ram one month of government funding through. They were banking that they could get enough hardline Republican Freedom Caucus members onboard, while pressuring enough Democrats with the CHIP funds to ram the bill through the House and force the Senate to back the plan as the only option in town.

This is far from Trump’s only major shift during these negotiations — he’d reportedly privately given positive signals a bipartisan group of senators on their plan to give more permanent legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in exchange for some border security funding and immigration law changes, before sandbagging those efforts in a hostile meeting where he allegedly made his now-infamous “shithole” comments.

And he issued a new demand for funding for “the wall” in his Thursday morning tweetstorm as well:

But even without Trump’s latest goalpost-moving, the GOP leaders’ plan didn’t look foolproof.

Senators in both parties have increasingly warned they might vote against another short-term extension, with Democrats furious that GOP leaders won’t include the bipartisan DACA compromise and some Republicans warning that they wouldn’t back a short-term plan because it puts the squeeze on military funding.

Shortly before Trump’s latest shift, a pair of key moderates — Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Democrats, and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) — announced they would vote against the short-term continuing resolution.

“I’m opposing the CR in its current form as well. And it’s not because immigration isn’t included,” Rounds said on CNN Thursday morning. “For me, it’s a matter of defense.”

Congress has until midnight Friday to figure out a way to avoid a government shutdown — a possibility that’s looking more likely by the hour as of Thursday morning. And Trump’s continued shifts aren’t making it any easier for GOP leaders as they try to avoid the first shutdown when one party has unified control of government in recent memory.

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As of Wednesday, amid internal GOP divisions on a spending bill and a potential shutdown looming Friday night, House Republicans had coalesced around a strategy: accuse Democrats planning to vote no because the plan doesn’t include relief for 700,000 young immigrants of deliberately blocking the renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

On Thursday morning, President Trump torched that strategy with a single tweet, indicating that CHIP should not be attached to the short-term spending bill at all.

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After a shocking win in a rural Wisconsin senate race Tuesday, Democrats are feeling increasingly bullish they can win another target deep in Trump territory, flip their first House seat since Trump’s 2016 victory and strike fear into the hearts of Republicans across the country.

Their target: a blue-collar southwestern Pennsylvania House seat recently vacated by disgraced former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) in territory national Democrats haven’t seriously contested this decade.

Strategists in both parties see a surprisingly close race developing in the district ahead of the March 13 special election. After some major investments, Republicans are pulling out the big guns on Thursday: A visit from President Trump himself, who will hold an official event on the district’s edges where he’s expected to boost the Republican candidate.

“Clearly there’s a lot of intensity and energy on the Democratic side and they’ve outperformed their recent numbers in other special elections. We’ve got to take this very, very seriously,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) told TPM. “I do think we are taking this seriously and I think we’re going to win, but we’re not going to be asleep at the switch.”

Republicans know a loss in this deep-red, blue-collar district after blowing an Alabama Senate race, getting crushed in Virginia’s gubernatorial race and losing more than 30 statehouse seats in the past year would further alarm their party — and be a sign that the 2018 Democratic wave might be large enough to drown some members who never thought they’d even need to swim.

“If we lost that race, it’d be quite an earthquake. I don’t know if I’d say on the scale of Alabama, but it’d be close,” one Pennsylvania Republican congressman told TPM.

Republicans have reason for concern.

Democrats have landed a top-notch recruit in Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and federal prosecutor whose family is a Democratic powerhouse in the Pittsburgh area. Republicans have by their own account nominated a somewhat lackluster candidate, dubbed “not Jack Kennedy” by one national Republican. State Rep. Rick Saccone (R) is a conservative firebrand who’s known as a weak fundraiser.

That matchup, paired with white-hot opposition to the president from the left, has created a single-digit race, according to private polling from both sides. And while Democrats admit it’s an uphill battle in the GOP-friendly district, they’re feeling bullish that they can pull off an upset that would prove they can win in rural, populist terrain.

“I think he’s going to win,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told TPM Monday night, calling it “a very strong indicator of a good year” for Democrats that the race is competitive.

The district stretches from suburban Pittsburgh deep into rural territory along the West Virginia border — Coal Country meets the Rust Belt, what one GOP congressman described to TPM as “The Deer Hunter district” (the film was based on the region).

Trump won it by a lopsided 20-point margin, improving on Mitt Romney’s 17-point victory there. And while it contains some of Pittsburgh’s tonier southern suburbs, much of the district is blue-collar populist — the type of ancestrally Democratic area that’s been moving gradually towards the GOP for decades where Trump’s right-wing populist nationalism sold particularly well.

Saccone is bear-hugging Trump in his campaign — the president remains relatively popular there, though his numbers have slipped — and is touting the GOP’s recent tax cuts and his own military experience on the trail (he’s an Air Force vet).

“Rick will work tirelessly to continue advancing President Trump’s bold agenda in Congress,” Saccone adviser Bob Branstetter said.

But Lamb isn’t looking to make the race about Trump.

“The President coming to campaign for Conor’s opponent doesn’t change what Conor or the campaign are doing,” Lamb campaign manager Abby Murphy said.

Lamb is positioning himself as an independent voice that fits the district. He’s pledged not to support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for speaker, talks up his support for gun rights and qualifies his support of legal abortion with the caveat that as a Catholic, he personally opposes it.

That makes it harder for Republicans to paint him as a Pelosi foot-soldier, though they say they’ll do so anyways. And while many Democrats want to run against Trump, he’s going harder after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who polls show is almost as unpopular as Pelosi in the district, attacking Ryan for his plans to shrink Medicare and Social Security.

“Connor’s independent, he’s made that very clear that the interest is going to be his district, whereas Rick Saccone has hitched his wagon to Paul Ryan,” Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), whose district abuts the 18th, told TPM.

On the other hand, Saccone is running hard to the right — unlike his predecessor Murphy, who easily held onto the district until it was revealed late last year he’d had an affair and encouraged the woman to have an abortion. Murphy long defended labor rights and had a good working relationship with many local unions, while Saccone has sponsored right-to-work legislation, fought against public employee unions and is best known for religious conservative pushes in the statehouse.

If Democrats can win in this district, they think they can win almost anywhere — and the building 2018 wave might be big enough to help them win the more rural areas they need for House control and defend tough populist states like nearby West Virginia as well as Indiana and Missouri.

“It will show if rural voters are still convinced Donald Trump is still going to make their lives better, and I’m wondering if some are realizing that may not be the case,” a national GOP strategist told TPM, warning a Saccone loss would be “a five-alarm fire” for the party.

Republicans still think they have the edge, a view most Democrats agree with. But Trump’s visit is the latest in a flurry of GOP activity as they look to stave off what would be a crushing loss in a district they shouldn’t need to spend to keep. The main House GOP super-PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has 50 field staff working the ground with an aim for 250,000 voter contacts. Ending Spending, a right-wing super-PAC funded by the Ricketts family, is already on the air with $1 million in positive spots touting Saccone’s record, as is another Ricketts group that backs Trump.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) held a D.C. fundraiser for Saccone on Wednesday. Trump’s political operation is gearing up for more involvement, including likely campaign stops from Vice President Mike Pence and help from Trump-aligned outside groups.

Neither candidate has reported fundraising yet, but Doyle said Lamb had brought in more than a half-million dollars by the end of the year — an impressive figure — while a source close to Saccone’s campaign would only say that he’d raised at least $100,000 by the end of 2017. Lamb’s first campaign ad debuts Thursday.

“This is a Republican district, but when you have you have an A candidate on the D side and certainly not an A candidate on the Republican side, Jack Kennedy reincarnated on the Democratic side and not Jack Kennedy on ours, that is a concern,” said one national Republican involved in the race.

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The fact that President Trump referred to certain nations as “shithole countries” last week did not come up once during Wednesday morning’s meeting between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and more than a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“I’m sure some people expected sparks to go off, but we just left that alone, because we didn’t see that as moving the agenda of the DREAMers forward,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said when he emerged from the meeting.

But the reported slur hung over the meeting like a cloud, and the Latino members were additionally frustrated that Kelly gave them no clear indication of what the White House is willing to support on an immigration deal, and did not himself know the details of the bipartisan plans put forward in the House and the Senate. Other members present said while no s-bombs were dropped, Kelly used other terms they found offensive to refer to certain immigrants and immigration mechanisms.

With a potential government shutdown just a few days away, and many Democrats vowing to vote against any spending bill that doesn’t include relief for DACA recipients stripped of protections by the Trump administration, the lawmakers said Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity for Democrats to “stand tall” and make sure the administration is not only listening to anti-immigrant hardliners.

“As you know, the President changes his mind quite often,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). “So what we want to do is make sure that the last person he hears is somebody who has heard from us.”

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Democrats pulled off a shocking upset to win a rural Wisconsin state Senate seat Tuesday night, triggering alarm bells for Republicans across the state and nation.

Democrat Patty Schachtner defeated a well-known local Republican in a district that President Trump had carried by a whopping 55 percent to 38 percent just over a year ago.

Wisconsin Republicans sounded the alarm about what the results could mean, including that Gov. Scott Walker (R), who faces reelection next fall, suddenly looks considerably more vulnerable than he did one day ago.

This special election is the latest sign that Democrats are poised to have a huge 2018 midterm election — and one of the first concrete examples that they’re well-positioned not just in suburban territory but in rural areas as well. That’s crucial, as many of the U.S. senators they’re defending this year represent heavily blue collar, populist states like Missouri, West Virginia (and Wisconsin), and if they’re going to win back the House they need to pick up at least some GOP-leaning seats in more rural areas.

The district where Democrats triumphed last night covers the western sliver of Wisconsin’s Northwoods, encompassing some Minneapolis exurbs as well as a good swath of rural territory. Trump won it big after Romney carried it by a six-point margin in 2012, and it’s long been one of Republicans’ best-performing parts of the state. No Democrat has held this state senate seat in nearly two decades.

But Schachtner won by a nine-point margin despite the district’s strong GOP lean and her allies being outspent by GOP outside groups by a comfortable margin.

It’s not the first Democratic pickup in rural territory in the last 12 months, and they’ve shown big gains in other more rural, populist areas. But this result is scaring Republicans — and it should.

“The greater takeaway from the Wisconsin SD-10 special election is an alarm klaxon for Republicans at every level of the ballot, even those running in gerrymandered districts and drastically outspending their Democratic challengers,” Daily Kos Political Editor Carolyn Fiddler, an expert in state legislative elections, said in a statement. “The reckoning has arrived, and no one is safe.”

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Friday marks the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump taking the oath of office, and unless lawmakers can eke out a deal in the coming days, it could also mark the first government shutdown under his watch, and under unified one-party control in Washington.

Trump declared back in May that the country “needs a good shutdown” to “fix mess,” and amid uncertainty that lawmakers and the White House can agree on a path forward on government funding, immigration, or health care, a shutdown is becoming a tangible possibility.

Between now and Friday, Congress and the White House will scramble to cut a deal on DACA, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and a continuing resolution to keep the government open. Should those talks fail, the race will be on to blame the opposing party for the ensuing wreckage.

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Over the course of President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the number of Americans without health insurance increased 1.3 percent—with 3.2 million more people uninsured, according to Gallup-Sharecare’s latest tracking report published Tuesday.

It’s the largest one-year increase in the uninsured population since Gallup-Sharecare began the survey in 2008.

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On Friday, Kentucky became the first state in the nation, and in the nation’s history, to win permission from the federal government to impose a work requirement and several other new restrictions on its Medicaid program.

“It will be transformational in all the right ways,” Governor Matt Bevin (R) said in a speech announcing the waiver approval. “It has been long overdue.”

Friday’s announcement, which by the state’s own estimate will result in more than 90,000 people losing Medicaid coverage, is yet another marker in a massive about-face for health care in the state. Kentucky—which just a few years ago made headlines as an Obamacare “success story,” launching its own health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid to more than 400,000 low-income residents—has seen a sharp reversal since electing a Tea Party governor in 2015.

With a whopping one-third of the state’s population now enrolled in Medicaid, and with state resources strained by a full-blown opioid addiction crisis, the fate of the new Medicaid work requirements will determine the future of health care not just for Kentucky but the nine states and counting who have their own waiver applications pending before Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“Kentucky will soon be the unfortunate poster child of this dangerous policy,” lamented Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). “My only hope is that the chaos caused by this policy and the desperation of the Kentucky families who will soon lose their only access to health coverage will force Governor Bevin to demonstrate some level of compassion and reverse this disgraceful policy.”

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Florida, man.

President Trump’s comments about “shithole countries” like Haiti could hurt him most severely in his winter home of Florida, a state that’s also home to a large Haitian community. And it’s just the latest time he’s singled out a key voting bloc to antagonize in the state.

His racially charged comments add insult to injury to the community, just weeks after his administration ended temporary status protection for 60,000 Haitian refugees living in the U.S.

And that’s nothing compared to how much he’s infuriated the state’s fast-growing Puerto Rican community with his administration’s shoddy response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island.

“It’s certainly making it tougher to be a Republican in Florida,” Alex Conant, a former senior strategist for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), told TPM. “The extent that he’s pissing off Haitians and Puerto Ricans is a part of his larger problem of poking the opposition which does nothing but guarantee extraordinary Democratic turnout.”

There are more than 300,000 Haitian-born people living in Florida, including roughly 100,000 American citizens who are registered voters. Trump actively courted Haitian voters in 2016, even promising to be their “champion” while campaigning in Miami’s Little Haiti that September.

That’s a big voting bloc — as many people as Trump’s margin of victory in the state in 2016. But it’s nothing compared to the more than 1 million Puerto Ricans living in the state, a population that has more than doubled since 2000. Trump’s handling of the hurricane that devastated (and continues to devastate) the island territory has caused a major uptick in the Puerto Rican exodus. As of November, a whopping 200,000 Puerto Ricans had moved to the state since the hurricane — a number that’s undoubtedly increased since then. All Democrats need to do is register those American citizens to further hurt Republicans’ chances in the state.

Florida Republicans were quick to note how problematic Trump’s latest comments were — including top state GOP strategist (and frequent Trump critic) Rick Wilson:

It was telling that one of the few Republicans who came out firing immediately against the comment was Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a potential Senate candidate.

“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this,” Scott said in a written statement. “I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken.”

That’s the second time in as many weeks that Scott has split with his close ally — he also called out the Trump administration for threatening to open up drilling off Florida’s coast, another deeply unpopular move in the state (they’ve since backed off, exempting Florida while not giving other states the same courtesy as of yet).

It’s unlikely that Trump’s latest incendiary comments will be top-of-mind for voters in 2020, or even 2018. But if Trump wants to carry the state where he winters, he has a funny way of going about it.

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The Trump administration has swiftly followed through on its promise Thursday to grant approval for states to impose work requirements on their Medicaid programs, giving Kentucky a green light Friday afternoon.

Nine other states have similar waiver requests sitting before Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, and more approvals are expected in the coming weeks.

It’s the first time in the program’s 50-plus-year history that such a requirement has been allowed, and lawsuits are expected to follow close on the heels of the announcement.

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