Fiscal conservatives are disappointed in President Donald Trump for cutting a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday to keep the government running and increase the debt ceiling for just three months as part of a bill to provide emergency funding for areas hit by Hurricane Harvey.
The agreement, which Trump reportedly sprang on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), extended government spending and the debt limit for a far shorter period than Republican leaders wanted. It also gives Democrats leverage to demand significant policy concessions in December, since the two previously separate deadlines are now due to coincide, skeptics warned.
But some of the president’s critics are even more frustrated with Ryan and McConnell for allowing the deadline to approach without an apparent strategy to extract policy wins from Democrats, losing the president’s confidence in the process.
If the two congressmen had a plan for the upcoming deadlines, members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus were not aware of it, according to Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative activism group with ties to the hardline Republican faction.
“I put most of it on [Ryan and McConnell] to be honest. You had a lot of time and we were just getting closer to [the government funding deadline of] September 30,” Brandon said.
“I blame McConnell and Ryan first. Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do: He said he likes debt; he said he was gong to expand spending; and he said that when the time was right, he would pivot to working with Democrats,” said Matt Kibbe, president of Free The People, a libertarian-leaning conservative advocacy group.
Failing to prioritize passage of a full-year budget earlier this year, weakened Ryan and McConnell’s bargaining leverage, Kibbe said. Had they gotten further along in the budgeting process, Kibbe suggested, they would not be faced with the prospect of appearing to hold up emergency funding to deal with two historic hurricanes.
“They want to play the last-minute brinksmanship game and they always lose that game ― every single time,” he said. “They have created this situation where they don’t have a card to play.”