Republicans Fume, Democrats Are Leery, As Trump Talks About Expanding Cooperation
The White House says President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan had “a productive working dinner” last night, while others called it “the most awkward dinner ever.” Earlier in the day, Ryan rationalized Trump’s smack-down of him and other Republican Leadership by saying the President wanted to create “a bipartisan moment while the country is facing two horrible hurricanes.”
Trump also introduced a new and odd rationalization into the discussion. While asserting (as we guessed yesterday) the main reason he cut the deal is he wanted to see progress, on the spot, before anyone left his office, he also defended the 3-month duration on the grounds that anything longer would’ve hampered his ability to have flexibility on military spending.
The Trump/Schumer/Pelosi deal to extend the Debt Ceiling for only 3 months, along with Hurricane Relief and continued budget funding passed the Senate by a wide margin. 80 voted yes. 17 Senators, all Republicans, voted against. (Ted Cruz voted for, but said he really didn’t want to.)
Now it goes to the House where there should be more vigorous push-back. But with bipartisan support, it’s likely to pass anyway. It could actually result in some Texas Representatives voting against Hurricane Relief for Texas, and will certainly result in some Far right Representatives who would’ve thrown a nasty fit over the Debt Ceiling increase voting for it because they don’t want to be seen as against Hurricane Relief.
And Trump irritated that camp further by suggesting he’d consider ending the nearly-continuous Debt Ceiling fights by making increases automatic. In our option, he’s absolutely right about that. Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine agrees it’s absolutely the right thing to do. And Ryan’s totally against it. So Trump’s again suggested he’ll turn to Democrats for leadership on that.
He also seems to have handed Democrats the reins on on immigration legislation that would give people covered by DACA the ability to stay in the country, and perhaps even a path to citizenship. (And maybe this is crazy thinking on our part, but we believe, oddly, it might be Trump’s best shot at getting his “wall”, if that’s the price they have to pay for his support.)
Will The Shockwave Trump Sent Through Republican Ranks Be Enough To Bring Obamacare Repeal Back To Life?
For a moment there, Trump’s surprise move seemed to send Senators springing into action. And that appears to revive the chances of a long-shot Obamacare repeal plan put forth by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, especially after it won a semi-endorsement from Senator John McCain. Their bill, which they say they’ll have completely ready by Monday, is a version of a proposal they shopped around a while ago, and was completely ignored by Senate Majority Leader McConnell in favor of all the other proposals he put forward, which all failed. Here’s a description of their plan from Vox’s Sarah Kliff.
While McConnell’s never been gung-ho about it, not even now, he’s indicated if the bill’s sponsors can prove to him they’ve mustered the necessary votes, he’ll bring it to the floor. That vote would have to happen before the end of the month, after which for procedural reasons, Republicans would need 60 votes, not 51, to pass a health care bill.
But the newfound fervor seems to have faded at least a little. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn saying: “We’ve seen that we don’t have 51 votes to do it, so we’re going to have to do it bipartisan.” Now, that could be a fake out; a little reverse psychology, considering the source. We’ll see.
In the meantime, the Senate HELP Committee (the “H” standing for “Health”) is getting to work on just that. The first order of business in their bipartisan effort: stabilizing Obamacare marketplaces by finding a way to take the uncertainty out of monthly cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. Up now they’ve been very reluctantly authorized by the White House, often at the last minute, and always with extreme prejudice.
Editorial: Us Liberals Might Want To Wait A Few More Days Before Picking Up Our Champagne Flutes And Jars Of Grey Poupon
While Trump surprised almost everybody, that’s what his move was: surprising. Shocking, even. (You just have to remember back to Trump telling the Wall Street Journal not long ago: “Schumer should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare“).
But Trump was not inconsistent. He’s still playing to his base: a base that’s been unbelievably hostile to Ryan for a long time, and after the health care debacle, McConnell too (before that they at least thought he could get stuff done.) A base that may even view Democrats who are slightly ideologically flexible and capable of rallying their party around common goals as preferable to current Republican leadership. Don’t believe us? Just watch this:
It is interesting to us that Charlottesville seems to be long (and conveniently) forgotten in all the back-slapping of the last two days. Amid all the stories about how Trump’s top Economic Advisor, Gary Cohn may have lost his shot at being Fed Chairman for criticizing the President’s defense of Nazis, that topic doesn’t seem to figure in to the warm scenes with Pelosi and Schumer at all. (And as a source quoted by the Guardian says: Trump “hates [Cohn]. But that could be ephemeral” Especially if he delivers on tax cuts).
Some are even suggesting in this instance, what’s often pointed to as Schumer’s and Pelosi’s weaknesses: they’re old-school, mainstream politicians who are not progressive enough, turned out to be a secret asset. Frankly, Democrats need people who know how to play the game (and grass-roots rabble-rousers.) “Real” politicians who are able to step into Trump’s whirlwind and come out fully intact, and in this case, stronger. Trump even apparently called up both his new-found Democratic buddies to brag about what “great press” they are all getting. This moment may be fleeting. But if there’s a chance it will lead to more bipartisanship, and less insane Radical right legislation, we’re all for it.
At the same time, we can still ask ourselves, at what price?
Something interesting is happening with Republicans too.
One might think one day after being royally screwed over by “Daddy” Trump, resentful Republicans would be inclined to tell him to go to hell. Yet what seems to be happening is quite the opposite: now all of a sudden they want to prove they can do something; that they’re not just a waste of space.
Trump knows this dynamic well.
Taking care of Hurricane Relief, Debt Ceiling, and Budget Funding in just one day, which Trump facilitated, not only clears the deck for tax reform, it also buys some time for Republicans to find common ground, close ranks, and prove they’re not good-for-nothings after all.
As we mentioned above, one idea seems to be taking another swipe at Obamacare, because that would really please the President. While that doesn’t seem to be working out, it’s not dead yet either.
But they may have the opposite problem from Democrats at this point. They have so many rabble-rousers in their midst right now, who are stubborn as all get out, it may be hard to find consensus on almost anything. And might be easier, as Trump suddenly (and possibly briefly) seems to have discovered, to reach out across the aisle.
The Calm Before The Storm Is Anything But For Residents Of South Florida
Here’s the latest on Hurricane Irma from the National Weather Service, and it doesn’t look good for South Florida:
The storm, which many residents were hoping would veer out to sea (and still could), instead jogged into a direct collision course with Miami.
Meanwhile, as the Mexican gulf coast is threatened by a smaller hurricane, Katia, a huge earthquake shook much of that country last last night. The 8.1 quake was centered in the South, off the Pacific coast.
Trump Jr. Appears Before Senate Judiciary Committee
In 5 hours of closed door testimony, Donald Trump Jr. answered a lot of questions, but tried to shake off his interactions with a Russian government-connected lawyer as a combination of enthusiasm and ignorance.
As Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker points out: “The question that was not answered today is why, when first confronted with questions about the meeting—which Don, Jr., and Jared Kushner have now both presented as harmless and uneventful—did the President and his son lie?”
We Recommend Some Weekend Reading
Evan Osnos’ assessment of the risk of U.S.-North Korea nuclear war in the New Yorker. Writing from Pyongyang, he traces the history of communication between the two countries, which warmed during the Clinton years, but has waned since, leading to a dangerous level of mutual misunderstanding.