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Trump Deals With Democrats on Debt Ceiling, Hurricane Relief

While Americans are rightly focused on Hurricane Irma and the impending landfall somewhere along the coast of Florida this Saturday, the federal government is dealing back and forth over the debt ceiling and Harvey relief funding. The Trump-Schumer-Pelosi deal, as it’s being called, has paired funding for Hurricane Harvey relief to raising the debt ceiling, but gives Republicans nothing in return for doing so. The deal was even worse than that for the Republican leadership, who days earlier had claimed that no such deal would be feasible or be put on the table.

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Start with the GOP reaction, from CNN:

President Donald Trump surprised the leaders of his own party in Congress on Wednesday when he backed a deal pushed by Democrats to attach hurricane relief money to a shorter-term bump in the debt ceiling as well as keeping the government open, cutting off his own Treasury secretary to strike a deal.

The decision was one of the most fascinating and mysterious moves he’s made with Congress during eight months in office.

The remarkable turn of events left Republican congressional leaders, in control of both chambers of the legislative branch, “shell-shocked” and “visibly annoyed,” and showcased how a President who also authored “The Art of the Deal” actually cuts one.

Trump’s stunning agreement to endorse a plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came during a Wednesday morning meeting with leaders from both parties in the Oval Office, the first such meeting of Trump’s presidency.

Several Republicans briefed on the meeting said that Trump, who has been absent a major legislative achievement for his first seven months in office, was hungry for a deal. It also came after he was warned of a packed legislative calendar that could have pushed off tax reform past this fall.

“The President was in deal-cutting mode,” a Republican familiar with the meeting told CNN. “He was sick of this fight.” [Emphasis added]

There are a few ways to look at this ordeal, and it probably depends on your partisan leanings, but the last sentence I highlighted is probably key. For the past several months, Trump hasn’t won much legislatively. He’s been close, but the GOP infighting has been too much to overcome for Mitch McConnell in the Senate. As such, there was always a lingering threat that Trump would simply ditch the GOP and start cutting deals with the Democrats, assuming enough of the GOP would come on board with whatever deal they came up with.

Rather than risk weeks of infighting and deadlines looming, it looks to me as if the President simply wanted to walk away having “solved” the problem. This way he can tout that funding relief for those devastated by Hurricane Harvey is on the way, and prove he is able to cut deals to get things done.

That leaves the Republican in an awfully tough spot, despite holding the House and Senate.

As evidence of the “winning” desire, see this piece from Politico which describes how Trump has enjoyed seeing the positive coverage of his deal in the media:

But in calls with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning, Trump raved about the positive news coverage it had received, according to people familiar with the calls, and he seemed very pleased with his decision.

Trump specifically mentioned TV segments praising the deal and indicated he’d been watching in a call with Schumer, two people said. And he was jovial in a call with Pelosi and agreed to send a tweet she asked for about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, these people said, while also mentioning the attention the deal had gotten. He indicated to both leaders he would be willing to work together again.

“He seemed super upbeat,” one person familiar with the calls said.

Another person familiar with the calls said Trump told Pelosi her coverage was even better than his. “The press has been incredible,” Trump said.

That’s … a stark reversal from calling media outlets “fake news,” to saying the “press has been incredible.” As a businessman, Donald Trump has always operated under the belief that even bad publicity is good. I’m beginning to wonder if someone within his inner circle has convinced him otherwise, perhaps to a small extent. Then again, he is known for changing his mind and/or changing the narrative on the drop of a hat as soon as the stories start turning negative.

Back to the CNN article, welcome to the Oval office version of The Apprentice:

A senior Republican source described Trump as being in “Apprentice” mode, a reference to the reality show that made the President a TV star. Trump just decided to listen and then make a decision on the spot, the source told CNN.

McConnell and Ryan were “blindsided by this,” a Republican official told CNN. In fact, hours before Trump agreed to Democrats’ proposal, Ryan had publicly called such a plan “ridiculous” during a news conference. The GOP leaders had no heads up or warning that Trump’s decision would happen, Republican officials told CNN. Another senior GOP source described the two leaders as “shell-shocked.”

It would be fitting if Omarosa was tasked to oversee progress and report back to The Donald in the boardroom Oval Office.

Nate Ashworth: Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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  • This strikes me as bizarre. We're talking about a legislative act--of, by, and for Congress. A president can always discuss and champion details, but how is a "deal" with the minority a big deal?

    McConnell and Ryan could simply not agree to bring it to the floor, while passing their own bill, at least in the House. But McConnell would need to get the whole gang onboard, which is an unlikely possibility.

    And, finally, I got a chuckle out of the CNN article, above, which said Trump "also authored 'The Art of the Deal' actually cuts one." When I was a kid, to "cut one" meant something different. . .

    • I liked it that he basically said "Screw you GOP." The GOP wasn't going to deal with him so he went to the Dems.

      We know the GOP establishment hates Trump. There are still pissed their Bushy boy isn't president. They thought they could do whatever they wanted.

      Even Rush agreed that Trump should deal with the Dems. Maybe now the GOP will listen. Grow up GOP.

      The American people want results. Not blowing smoke.

  • Lets talk about the hurricane as well. Trump is to be commended on his quick help for American on the mainland. The general public’s response and help was even greater.

    For days Trump was silent on helping American citizens in the Puerto Rico disaster. He was occupied with blasting the NFL players when he should have been marshaling Congress to assist American citizens caught in one of the worst disasters that has evet hit Puerto Rico. The majority of Americans, and this appears to include Trump, do not realize that Puerto Rico belongs to the United States. Lock, stock and barrel so to speak. After one hundred years of holding American citizenship, Puerto Ricans still cannot vote in the presidential election. They are prohibited by US law from managing their own economy, negotiating their own trade relations, or setting their own consumer prices. It is an island of beggars and a tax haven for billionaires. Every president and every congressman for the last hundred years have knowingly allowed this corrupt concept to carry own.

    Trump was quick to tweet about Puerto Rico's debt in the midst of the island's turmoil. it appears the president forgot about his own unsavory role in their current financial crisis. Trump took over the management of a failing Puerto Rican golf course back in 2008 and vowed to revitalize it with his business savvy. He renamed it Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico. Despite promising to contain the course's expenditure, the golf club's expenses ballooned by 22 percent under Trump's watch. Millions of dollars in government-backed bonds were borrowed to finance the operation, and Trump's central role in the organization was used as a selling point to attract prospective investors. Meanwhile, Trump pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from the failing project without ever stepping in to oversee its daily operations. In 2011, Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico defaulted (surprise!) after it was unable to make its bond payments. The club eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and Puerto Rico's taxpayers were left to deal with the nearly $33-million bill left behind by the failed business venture, exacerbating the territory's already desperate financial situation.

  • Add this to the above post. Let's not forget that this is the same Donald Trump that refused to rent to Puerto Ricoians, blacks, and Dominicans until 1970 when the US Dept of Justice legally forced him to do so.