If the rift between Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress wasn’t obvious enough already, on Wednesday he had all four leaders from both parties to the White House and sided very publicly and explicitly with the Democrats on a short-term increase in the debt limit as part of a hurricane relief package.
Trump made his position clear at a White House meeting with both parties’ congressional leaders, agreeing with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on plans for a bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling for three months.
That effectively postpones until December a divisive fight over fiscal matters, including whether to fund construction of Trump’s long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border…
In siding with Democrats, Trump overruled his own Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who was in the middle of an explanation backing a longer-term increase when the president interrupted him and disagreed, according to a person briefed on the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Trump was “in deal-cutting mode,” the person said.
After the gathering, McConnell said he would add provisions extending government funding and the debt limit through mid-December to legislation passed by the House on Wednesday providing $7.85 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief.
Republicans are furious over this because they think it gives the Democrats more leverage in three months and reduces their own. And they’re right, purely as a pragmatic matter. But this illustrates something that has always been true about Trump, that he is a party of one, not beholden to partisan considerations. The Republican Party was his vehicle to power, but he holds little allegiance to it. What he wants more than anything at this point is to be able to declare a victory, any victory. That’s all. And if it makes him look good at the expense of the GOP, he’s fine with that.But is it really a smart move strategically? One result is that it moves a fight over the border wall and DACA in Congress closer to the midterm election, which is about the last thing Republicans who are up for reelection want to have happen. Another result is that it replays the debt ceiling fight all over again in three months rather than having an 18-month extension that would last past the election. If Republicans in Congress are angry about this, they’re probably right to be so.
And make no mistake about it, this will only deepen the rift between Trump and Ryan and McConnell. Only an hour before that meeting, Ryan called the three-month extension of the debt limit being proposed by Democrats “ridiculous and disgraceful.” Now he has little choice but to back it.
And before you ask, of course there’s an old Tweet of Trump’s that completely contradicts this, from 2012 when Obama was president:
The worst negotiators in history (otherwise known as Republicans) have just offered to suspend debt ceiling for four months. Pathetic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2013
There really is a Tweet for everything.