Republicans in Congress rush to avoid shutdown as Trump speaks out on 'CHIP' inclusion

WASHINGTON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress intensified efforts to pass a temporary extension in funding government operations and avert a shutdown, scheduling a vote on the measure for later Thursday.

For months, the Republican-controlled Congress has been struggling to fund the government, which is now operating on its third temporary funding extension since the 2018 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

A vote on the bill is expected after 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT), House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would take up the short-term funding measure as soon as the House approves it.

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Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
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Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Democrats insist that a long-term spending bill include a measure covering "Dreamers," illegal immigrants brought to the country as children who were protected from deportation by former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Republican President Donald Trump ordered DACA to end in March and asked Congress to come up with a legislative fix. But bipartisan congressional negotiations with the White House faltered last week, prompting Republican leaders to begin pushing for the passage of a stopgap measure to fund the government through Feb. 16.

The White House said on Wednesday it supported passage of a short-term funding measure and that immigration talks could resume next week.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate and most legislation, including spending bills or an immigration deal, will require 60 votes to pass.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday said there was "revulsion" among his colleagues for the stopgap proposal in the House and an "overwhelming number" would not support it.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is involved in the immigration negotiations, also said he would not vote for a short-term funding bill. His conservative colleague Mike Rounds told CNN on Thursday he could not back the current measure.

It was also unclear whether Republicans had the votes in the House to pass a short-term fix since members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus prefer additional defense funding.

The group's leader, Representative Mark Meadows, told MSNBC television on Thursday there was not yet enough support among conservatives for the short-term funding measure.

"We still don't have the votes here in the House. We made good progress last night. Hopefully, we'll get there today," Meadows said, adding that he spoke with Trump on Wednesday night. "He does not want a shutdown. He made that very clear."

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Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

To entice lawmaker on both sides, the short-term bill would include a six-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to lure Democrats, while further delaying some taxes imposed under Obamacare to appeal to Republicans.

But that appeared to draw ire from the president, who said in a tweet on Thursday: "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!"

White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Trump would still support the measure and sign it into law if it passes both chambers. (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey; Writing by Amanda Becker and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Larry King and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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