UPDATE: Interior says parks should remain accessible

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WASHINGTON (AP) — 3:15 p.m.

The Interior Department says that if there is a government shutdown, national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. The stance is a change from previous shutdowns when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols.

Spokeswoman Heather Swifts says the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open air parks open to visitors. Swift says many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.

She says public roads that already open are likely to remain open, although services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full-service restrooms and concessions won't be operating. Backcountry lands and culturally sensitive sites are likely to be restricted or closed.

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3:10 p.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the State Department is "ready" if the federal government shuts down.

Tillerson is responding to questions about his agency's preparations for what to do if Congress fails to pass a stopgap spending measure. He says he hopes that doesn't happen. But he says if it does, "We're ready."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says no decisions have been made about what services like visa processing and passports the State Department could provide during a shutdown. She also says there's been no decision about whether Tillerson could proceed with a planned Europe trip next week if the government shuts down.

Nauert says security for American diplomats overseas won't be affected. She says Tillerson and individual embassies have some discretion over how to handle a shutdown.

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2:15 p.m.

Mexico is disputing President Donald Trump's claim that it is the "most dangerous country in the world." Mexico also says, again, that it will not pay for a border wall.

Trump tweeted Thursday, "We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world." He also insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department concedes the country has a problem with violence but says it is "openly false" to call it the most dangerous.

It points out the most recent global comparison by the United Nations put Mexico far from being one of the most dangerous countries, and the department says Mexico's murder rate is not even the highest in Latin America.

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12:12 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump supports the House effort to avert a government shutdown and fund a popular children's health insurance program for six years.

"The President supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House," White House spokesman Raj Shah says in a statement. "Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two-year budget caps deal. However, as the deal is negotiated, the President wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats."

Trump cast his support for the measure into doubt earlier Thursday with a tweet that criticized the length of the CHIP reauthorization. "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" Trump tweeted.

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12:09 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he's confident that the GOP-controlled House will do its part and pass legislation to keep the government open for another four weeks.

The Wisconsin Republican told Reporters Thursday that GOP vote counters are "doing fine. I have confidence we'll pass this."

The House is slated to vote Thursday evening but members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus are opposed to the measure.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said leaders are refusing to attach items such as funding to fully finance a 2.4 percent pay raise for the military.

Ryan said he spoke to President Donald Trump and said Trump fully supports the House measure, despite tweeting earlier Thursday that a popular children's health insurance program should not be part of the short-term budget agreement.

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11:34 a.m.

President Donald Trump says a government shutdown "could happen," saying it is "up to the Democrats."

Trump spoke as he arrived at the Pentagon for a meeting Thursday. He said on his way in that he was there "for our military" and said if a shutdown happens, the "worst thing is what happens to our military."

Trump said the country "just about never needed our military more than now."

Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to avert the shutdown, which could come at midnight Friday. Trump injected confusion into the process Thursday with a tweet that a children's health insurance program should not be part of a short-term budget agreement.

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9:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says a children's health insurance program shouldn't be part of a short-term budget deal.

Trump favors making the program part of "a long-term solution, not a 30 Day, or short-term, extension!"

Trump is referring to the Children's Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

House Republican leaders have included a six-year renewal in a short-term budget bill in an effort to woo Democrats. But the effort faces resistance from Democrats who've been demanding protections for certain young immigrants.

The White House isn't immediately responding to questions about the tweet.

Trump also says he doesn't want to see a government shutdown — and the shutdown deadline is fast approaching. It's midnight Friday.

He says a "shutdown will be devastating to our military ... something the Dems care very little about!"





 
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