On Wednesday morning during a meeting with leaders of both parties, President Trump, “hungry for a deal” and desperate for an early win to buoy his fledgling administration and abysmal approval ratings, cut a partisan deal with one of the groups in the room, but it was not his own party.
In a stunning rebuke of his party’s leadership, Donald Trump surprisingly backed the Democrats’ plan supporting a deal that would pair funding for Hurricane Harvey aid with lifting the debt ceiling for a three month period. Republican congressional leadership had desired a longer term deal, hoping to avoid setting up a long and protracted budget fight in December.
In the early morning meeting Wednesday, Trump reportedly ignored the advice of both Republican congressional leadership and his own treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, opting to back the Democrat’s short term deal strategy.
Just moments earlier, Republican leadership appeared to take a confident and unified stand against the Democrat’s approach. House Speaker, Paul Ryan, told reporters that he believed the Democrat’s strategy to be “ridiculous and disgraceful,” viewing it as wanting “to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need to respond to these hurricanes so that we do not strand them.”
The lack of consistency in tone, strategy, and actions between congressional Republicans and the White House was yet another display of the level of discord in the governing party.
Despite Republican control over both the Executive and Legislative branches, they continue to struggle for meaningful accomplishments. Having faced defiance and the ensuing defeat from the fringe wing of their own party with the Freedom Caucus during the healthcare debate and now, from their very own President, Republican senior leadership faces new challenges as they try to corral their divergent and recalcitrant coalitions. This represents another sign of the difficulties the GOP faces as they attempt to shift from a vocal and powerful opposition party into a ruling party, dealing with the realities of governing.
The GOP remains in a precarious position after major public failures on healthcare, the border wall, and a travel ban executive order facing legal challenges. The fact that the Republicans were shown up by Democrats who out-hustled the GOP for how to work with their own President again put on display the state of disarray the party faces.
With record low approval ratings for Congress from even Republicans, Representatives’ face potential primary challenges and embattled midterm elections which usually spell bad news for the majority party anyways.
Top Republicans were “shell-shocked” and “visibly annoyed,” by President Trump’s surprising decision in which he cut off his own Treasury secretary to strike a deal. Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were reportedly entirely “blindsided by this.”
According to Republican officials, with no heads up or warning of Trump’s decision, they pushed initially to lift the debt ceiling for 18 months before capitulating to 6 months and then finally losing out to a 3 month deal offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, two leading subjects of Republican voter’s contempt.
Some Republicans, like Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, took to Twitter to speak out. Sasse was laconic, simply stating, “The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad.” Other reactions were captured by reporters, like that of New York Republican, Peter King, who described the chemistry between Trump and Democrat Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer during the Wednesday morning meeting as off the charts, adding “It was almost like a love-in at times.”
Peter King tells me Trump & Schumer chemistry at a WH meeting today was off the charts: “It was almost like a love-in at times.”
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) September 7, 2017
While some Republicans went on the record with their reactions, many others remained on the sidelines, gave comment on background, or privately aired their grievances with the deal. Politico reports that “many Republicans were furious with President Donald Trump’s budget deal,” adding that they were “stunned that the president quickly gave in to Democratic demands… getting nothing in return.”
But the reaction from congressional representatives was not the only reaction worthy of noting. There was also a significant reaction to the reaction caused by Trump’s surprising decision. This one from Trump himself who called Schumer and Pelosi Thursday morning to express his pleasure at the media coverage of their new deal. Trump reportedly decided to call the two congressional leaders “to rave about the news coverage of their debt deal.”
While many Republicans were furious, Trump seemed quite satisfied with his decision during the call, even described by people familiar with the calls as “jovial in a call with Pelosi.” It primarily appeared to be news coverage, particularly that of cable news that engendered Trump’s delight, as on the call with Schumer, he “specifically mentioned TV segments praising the deal and indicated he’d been watching.” Reveling in a brief respite from overwhelmingly negative media coverage, an “upbeat” Trump told Pelosi her coverage was even better than his. “The press has been incredible,” Trump said.”
Trump-Dem Deal Part Two?:
If Trump’s deal cut with his opposition was not enough to anger some congressional Republicans, he may have a second chance to stoke the flames of their ire. The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump may not be done with his bipartisan deal-making.
Trump and Schumer have purportedly agreed to pursue a deal that would see the requirement that Congress repeatedly take action to raise the debt ceiling permanently removed. The pair of New Yorkers who have a curiously cozy relationship, will work with Democratic House Leader, Pelosi over the next few months to finalize a plan that would then require congressional approval.
With top Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, stating their public opposition to the deal, this potential deal may finally setup a show down between President Trump and his own party. If GOP leaders, who are worried that Trump may undermine their own agenda and privately doubt whether his Presidency can be saved, view this as the last straw in dealing with a chaotic and unpredictable President, they may seek to chart their own path.
• Trump bypassed his own party to make a deal with the Democrats to fund Hurricane Harvey aid in exchange for a short term, three-month lift on the debt ceiling, staving off a budget fight, at least until December.
• Republicans were “shell-shocked” and “blindsighted” by the deal. Particularly as the Democrats whom Trump bartered with, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, are incredibly unpopular figures amongst Republicans, often serving as political lightning-rods to rally opposition around a cause.
• President Trump was ecstatic over what he considered to be “incredible” positive press coverage which he called Pelosi and Schumer to effuse about.
• With Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as incredibly unpopular political figures amongst Republicans, will Trump-voters stick by their candidate or turn on him? Will their allegiance to Trump overwhelm their hatred of Pelosi and Schumer or, as was the case with Republican views on Vladimir Putin, will Pelosi and Schumer benefit from partisan glasses?
• Beyond Republican voters, will Republican leadership abandon Trump and decide to distance themselves from the unpopular President in order to pursue their agenda? Will Republicans remain loyal to a President of their own party who blames and defies them or will Trump’s relatively short experience with the Republicans and cozy history of donor-ship with Chuck Schumer trigger a fracture point?
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