Many Republicans are shocked that President Trump did a budget deal with the Democrats, opting for “Chuck and Nancy” in an Oval Office meeting over Paul and Mitch.
They shouldn’t be.
Whether the three-month debt ceiling agreement is a fleeting political maneuver or a presidential hammer against his own party, it’s not terribly surprising. Trump has been increasingly frustrated with McConnell and Ryan for failing to pass much of anything since he took office. So he struck a deal with Schumer and Pelosi.
The move underscores what I’ve always maintained about Donald Trump, that he’s basically an independent president. He’s a onetime Democrat who vanquished the Republican establishment, but has never been wedded to GOP orthodoxy.
Some on the right are criticizing the president for barely negotiating. The Republican leaders pushed an 18-month debt ceiling extension, then a six-month deal, but Trump just took the Democrats’ three-month proposal, tied to immediate aid for Hurricane Harvey.
On substance, Trump didn’t give up much. Conservatives always demand spending cuts when the debt ceiling comes up but rarely win, since the alternative is a government default. And Congress is going to provide tens of billions in aid related to the monster hurricane that hit Texas and the one that’s about to hit Florida.
On tactics, though, the president may have handed the Dems an advantage. They can push for a massive bill at Christmas time that not only raises the debt limit but legalizes the Dreamers program. After having Jeff Sessions announce that they’re ending the program in six months, Trump has said that he loves the dreamers (who were brought here illegally by their parents), that they have “nothing to worry about,” and that he’ll revisit the issue if the Hill doesn’t act.