Democrats to join Trump, Republicans in talks to avert government shutdown

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Congress scrambles to avoid a government shutdown

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MI) on how Congress plans to avoid a government shutdown.

Democratic leaders in Congress on Monday accepted an invitation to meet U.S. President Donald Trump and Republicans for talks to avert a government shutdown this week, even as the Democrats pressed demands on funding priorities and protecting immigrants.

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House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who canceled a meeting with Trump last week after he issued a disparaging note about them on Twitter, said Monday they hoped the president would remain open-minded about reaching a deal with Democrats.

"We need to reach a budget agreement that equally boosts funds for our military and key priorities here at home," Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement. "There is a bipartisan path forward on all of these items."

The meeting was scheduled for Thursday, a day before funding for the federal government is due to run out.

Republicans in the House over the weekend introduced a stopgap measure that would fund the government at current levels until Dec. 22 to give lawmakers time to reach a deal on a longer-term bill. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the measure this week.

Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate. But in the Senate they will need some Democratic support to get the spending bill past procedural hurdles that require 60 votes, since there are only 52 Republicans in the 100-member chamber.

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Schumer said on Monday that everyone should be working to avoid a shutdown, and he did not believe Republican congressional leaders wanted one.

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"The only one at the moment who's flirted with a shutdown is President Trump, who tweeted earlier this year that 'we could use a good shutdown to fix the mess,'" Schumer said.

The Republican bill will provide some short-term help for states that are running out of money to finance an insurance program for millions of lower-income children, called the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Republican aides said.

Congress allowed CHIP funding to expire on Sept. 30.

Schumer and Pelosi on Monday listed CHIP among their priorities, which also included the opioid crisis, pension plans, rural infrastructure and protection for young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

But it was unclear whether Democrats would withhold their votes from the short-term spending bill this week if they do not get their priorities addressed. Bipartisan staff-level talks about spending continued on Capitol Hill, Democratic aides said.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

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