President Donald Trump briskly overruled congressional Republicans and his own treasury secretary to cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government operating and raise America's debt limit.
President Donald Trump briskly overruled congressional Republicans and his own treasury secretary to cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government operating and raise America’s debt limit. The immediate goal was ensuring money for hurricane relief, but in the process the president brazenly rolled his own party’s leaders. In deal-making mode, Trump sided with the Democratic leaders “Chuck and Nancy,” as he amiably referred later to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as they pushed for the three-month deal.
The deal had the effect of brushing aside the urgings of Republican leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for a much longer extension to the debt limit. Republicans want that longer allowance to avoid having to take another vote on the politically toxic issue before the 2018 congressional elections. The White House session painted a vivid portrait of discord at the highest ranks of the Republican Party. After an angry August that Trump spent lobbing attacks at fellow Republicans, specifically targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the failure of health care legislation, the president wasted little time once Congress came back this week in demonstrating his disdain for the House and Senate leaders charged with shepherding his agenda into law.
At first, in yesterday’s Oval Office meeting, the Republicans lobbied for an 18-month debt ceiling extension, then 12 months and then six, but Trump waved them off. As Mnuchin continued to press an economic argument in favor of a longer term, Trump tired of it and cut him off mid-sentence. At another point, the meeting totally lost focus when Ivanka Trump entered to raise an unrelated issue on child care tax credits. Details of the meeting were disclosed by several people briefed on the proceedings who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly.
One photo taken through the window of the Oval Office showed an animated Schumer pointing his finger in Trump’s face as the president smiles with his hands on his fellow New Yorker’s arms. After the meeting, Trump boarded a plane to North Dakota with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in an effort to garner bipartisan support for tax legislation that Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are crafting on a purely partisan basis. That continued the day of bizarre disconnects between the president and the leaders of his party. Trump called Heitkamp to the stage at his Dakota event and praised her as a “good woman.” She will be running for re-election against a Republican in November 2018.
Heitkamp later issued a statement saying she needs to know more about Trump’s tax plan before offering her support. “I know the devil is in the details of any reform plan as tax codes are complex, and we need to know what those details are,” she said. Aboard Air Force One, Trump told reporters, “We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.” He didn’t mention Republicans McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also had been present. “We agreed to a three-month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred, very important.” “I think the deal will be very good,” Trump added. Barely an hour earlier, Ryan had slammed the Democrats’ demand for a three-month extension as “ridiculous and disgraceful.” He issued no public statement on the final deal. McConnell, in his own reserved fashion, did not sugar- coat what happened when he addressed reporters a short time later.