President Trump has formed an alliance with the Democrats, to the consternation of Republicans. Is the president “turning to the left,” as some conservatives are charging? Or is he trying to break the logjam in Congress by forcing bipartisanship and unifying the country? If so, will the Democrats let him?
Last week, President Trump met with Congressional leaders of both parties in the Oval Office last week, discussing options for increasing the debt ceiling so that the government will not shut down. Republicans wanted an 18-month extension, postponing further deliberations until after the midterm elections, hoping too to extract Democratic concessions on cutting spending. Democrats wanted nothing more than a 3-month extension, with no strings attached. President Trump went with the Democrats, endorsing their position with no concessions or compromises on their part.
The Republicans in the room, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were shocked. No less shocked, no doubt, were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi–whom the president was referring to in a friendly way as “Chuck and Nancy”–who now, as one analyst says, are “driving the agenda in Congress.”
Is this what ousted advisor Steve Bannon feared, that after he is gone “the Democrats in the Oval Office” in the administration–namely, Jared and Ivanka Trump as well as other New York Democrats in the administration–would be in charge? Is this a function of how much President Trump despises Ryan and McConnell?
But maybe the President is actually forcing bipartisanship. McConnell, like a good soldier, introduced the bill the president and the Democrats wanted, attached to a hurricane relief bill, and it did pass, 316-90. Could this be a pattern for future legislative co-operation, on tax-reform, infrastructure funding, and other Trump priorities?
And he has further ruffled Republican lawmakers’ feathers by first cancelling President Obama’s executive order “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), which prevents older children of illegal immigrants from being deported. The president created a storm of indignation for his heartlessness–which only adds to his unpopularity–though he claimed he was only acting to correct Obama’s illegal action into a decision that should have been made by Congress.
The president called on Congress to pass a DACA law. But for many congressional Republicans, immigration issues are Kryptonite because of their constituents’ reactions. Even though many of them sympathize with the plight of teenaged and adult children who had no say in their parents’ breaking the law and have never lived anywhere else but this country, Republicans in Congress don’t like being put on the spot by having to vote on this issue. And President Trump has backed a Democratic bill to address the issue.
Which raises another question. If President Trump is trying to reach out to Democrats to govern in a bipartisan manner, will they let him? Or is their hatred of Trump and their “resistance” rhetoric too deep? And if Democratic lawmakers work with the president, how will the Democratic base react?
Photo: Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi by DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons