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Trump Ignores Republicans, Strikes Fiscal Deal with "Chuck and Nancy"
- Known for his famed bestseller, "Art of the Deal," Donald Trump ran for President as a dealmaker. On Wednesday, he cut an agreement with congressional Democrats, perplexing and angering leaders of his own party.
- At a Wednesday meeting in the Oval Office, Trump agreed to a proposal offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to punt both fiscal deadline facing Congress this month — the threats of a government shutdown and debt default — to December. Trump embraced a deal funding the government and increasing the debt ceiling for three months, which will also be attached to a $7.85 billion Hurricane Harvey aid package.
- The meeting was also attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); just hours before, Ryan had called the Democratic three-month proposal "ridiculous and disgraceful." However, Trump ignored the GOP leaders in the room, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who had called for a longer-term solution.
- "We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” Trump told reporters while traveling to North Dakota on Wednesday, without mentioning his own party's leaders, who he has feuded with for months. "We agreed to a three-month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred — very important — always we’ll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it."
- Schumer and Pelosi announced the deal in a joint statement after the meeting. "In the meeting, the President and Congressional leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a continuing resolution both to December 15, all together," they said. "Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us."
- According to a number of reports, Ryan and McConnell proposed an 18-month extension of the debt ceiling — a plan that would have allowed Republicans to push the issue past the 2018 midterm elections. Because the increase would have been attached to Hurricane Harvey aid, Democrats would not have been able to score any additions to the proposal, giving Republicans a rare opportunity to table the debt ceiling without any sacrifices.
- Instead, under the proposal Trump agreed to, the debt debate will return in just three months, giving Democrats an opportunity to tack on their priorities (including the DREAM Act, a legislative version of the DACA program Trump ended on Tuesday) to the debt ceiling increase. GOP leaders will likely need Democrats votes to avoid a default, with expected opposition from conservatives in Congress.
- However, a top Republican told CNN, Trump was "in deal-cutting mode," attempting to cut an agreement on the spot to clear the September calendar so he could focus on his legislative priority, tax reform.
- Multiple news outlets said that Trump agreed to the Democratic offer as Mnuchin pushed for the longer-term plan, cutting off his own Treasury Secretary mid-sentence. Mnuchin later defended the agreement to reporters “Our No. 1 priority was getting money for Harvey," he said. "Let me very clear: That’s the president’s number one agenda and we accomplished that." Meanwhile; White House legislative director Marc Short described the deal as "clearing the deck" for tax reform; White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said, "Pushing this three months allows us to focus on tax reform and those other issues that are important."
- A CNN report described Ryan and McConnell as "shell-shocked" and "blindsided" by the agreement, and "visibly annoyed" when the President's daughter Ivanka Trump stopped by the meeting unannounced. The New York Times reported that Republican leaders had expected the meeting to be a mere "photo-op in which the broad outlines of a deal were discussed"; McConnell reportedly "seethed" after the meeting, while Mnuchin left in "a state of shell shock." According to Axios, McConnell is "perplexed" while Ryan is "furious." Meanwhile, Politico said, "Democrats were gleeful, while "Republicans returned to the Capitol disheartened."
- Ryan has not spoken publicly on the deal, while McConnell released a statement offering his support. He explained that the agreement emerged from a need to approve aid for Hurricane Harvey. “The president can speak for himself, but his feeling was that we needed to come together to not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis," he told reporters.
- After the House passed the Harvey disaster relief legislation on Tuesday, in a 419-3 vote, the Senate Majority Leader added an amendment to keep current spending levels and increase the debt ceiling through December 8, while also nearly doubling the amount of disaster aid due to expected impact by Hurricane Irma.
- Backlash among conservative Republicans was immediate: "Democrats got exactly what they wanted," House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) complained. The bluntest statement, perhaps, came from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who released a one-sentence statement, declaring: "The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad."
- Trump (D)? The fiscal deal was not the only overture that President Trump, famously averse to ideological labels, made to Democrats on Wednesday.
- After the congressional meeting, in comments to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump seemed to support the Democratic push for a "DREAM Act" to legislate the DACA program he rescinded earlier in the week. "Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so would I," the President said, adding that he would sign immigration legislation if it passed Congress.
- In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump pledged to "revisit this issue" if Congress didn't act, apparently to enshrine DACA in law.
- Later, after arriving in North Dakota for remarks on tax reform, Trump praised Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), a prime Republican target in 2018. The President invited her onto the stage and called her a "good woman," which will likely improve Heitkamp's re-election chances in a state Trump won by 25 percentage points.
The President's Schedule: Kuwait meeting, Ryan dinner
President Donald Trump begins his day today with a 10am briefing on "hurricane preparation and response" as Hurricane Irma continues to barrel towards the United States. Trump signed emergency declarations on Wednesday for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ahead of expected impact by the Category 5 storm; he also spoke to the governors of all three.
At 10:30am, Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 11am, he will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. At 12:15pm, the President will welcome Amir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah of Kuwait to the White House. He will sit down with the Amir at 12:20pm; the two will hold a working luncheon at 12:40pm and a joint press conference at 1:30pm. According to the White House, the Amir's visit is a part of "the second annual United States-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, which will include Cabinet-level meetings on education, trade, investment, homeland security, and military cooperation."
At 3:30pm, Trump will hold an "infrastructure" meeting; according to the New York Times, the meeting will include New York and New Jersey officials, and will discuss the proposed Hudson River tunnel linking both states. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), as well as Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Chris Christie (R-NJ), were invited.
Finally, at 7pm, the President will have dinner with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), a day after surprising Ryan by accepting a deal with Democratic leaders just hours after the Speaker had blasted the proposal. The dinner also comes after a Washington Post report on Wednesday that House Freedom Caucus leaders met with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Monday, and "have begun to discuss who could replace Ryan as speaker, should conservatives rebel against him."
Today in Congress
- The House convenes at 10am today; the chamber is scheduled to continue consideration of a "minibus" package combining the annual appropriation bills. 224 more amendments to the package are scheduled to be voted on, with the House set to go through more of them toady.
- The Senate will also convene at 10am, resuming consideration of the House-passed Harvey aid, as well as McConnell's amendment extending the debt limit through December 8 and adding a continuing resolution funding the government through the same date.
- Cohn Out of Running for Fed Chair President Trump is no longer likely to nominate National Economic Director Gary Cohn to become Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. "The shift in Mr. Cohn’s prospects for the top Fed job arises largely from his criticism of Mr. Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville," the newspaper reported.
- Trump is reportedly considering renominating Chairwoman Janet Yellen for a second term; a slate of other candidates has also emerged in the wake of Cohn's public critique of Trump in an interview with the Financial Times.
- Clinton Book Preview CNN obtained a copy of Hillary Clinton's forthcoming book on the 2016 campaign on Wednesday, "What Happened," ahead of its highly-anticipated release next week. "The defeated presidential contender offers a patchwork of explanations for what, exactly, did happen last year -- some of which she insists were outside her control and some she concedes were her own fault," the network reported, adding a number of quotes from the memoir.
- Drip, Drip, Drip The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Facebook has informed congressional investigators of $100,000 in ads it sold during the 2016 campaign to a Russian company, raising questions "about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States" in targeting the ads to specific Americans.
- Facebook had previously denied Russian advertising on the site; their confirmation opens a new chapter in the investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. According to Reuters, the social network has turned the data over to special counsel Robert Mueller.
- Coming today: Donald Trump, Jr., the President's eldest son, will testify behind closed doors before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A June meeting with Trump, Jr. and a Russian attorney and lobbyist at Trump Tower has emerged as a focus of the Mueller probe.