Why President Trump Cut a Deal with Democrats

Maybe it was retribution for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s healthcare failure. Maybe it was a desire to keep the focus on hurricane response. Perhaps he didn’t fully understand the magnitude of what he was doing. Whatever the reason, President Trump’s decision Wednesday to cut a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over the objections of his Republican allies has the GOP fuming, and Democrats gleeful at their newfound influence. The agreement to fund a down-payment on hurricane disaster relief in the same legislative package that would raise the debt limit and keep the government open til December, sets up another major fiscal showdown at the end of the year. Republican leadership is upset that they were blindsided in the room. “Everyone with an ‘R’ behind their name including the president’s Treasury Secretary, wanted to see debt limit extended for longer,” a person briefed on the meeting said. And conservative lawmakers are livid with the agreement—which both hands leverage to Democrats and breaches longstanding GOP concerns about deficits. There are probably enough Republican “yes” votes to go along with Democrats to pass the bill, but it marks a potential sea change in the relationship between Trump and his party.

What’s clear is that, above all else, Trump wanted a legislative victory—really, anything he could call a victory—and had essentially no concerns about its substance. His legislative agenda of health care and tax reform has been stalled for months, the former perhaps permanently, leaving his poll numbers suffering, Trump wanted to secure a feel-good moment. And it came at the expense of his own party. The move confirmed some of Republicans’ worst fears about their president and his commitment to his adoptive party. The GOP had always feared that Trump would try to cut deals with Democrats in search of positive headlines, and on Wednesday he did. Trump’s lack of ideological rigidity and desire to get along with people in private already had him abandoning his calls for border wall funding in the so-called continuing resolution. Now, Trump handed Schumer and Democrats the agenda in December, allowing them to use the full magnitude of fiscal pressure points to push Trump to embrace their priorities. It…

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