Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., arrive for a news conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on September 6, 2017. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call | AP Photo
The Republicans may have the majority in both houses of Congress. They may have the presidency. But make no mistake: It’s Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who are calling the shots in Washington, D.C., with President Donald J. Trump’s support.
The president’s total capitulation occurred in a Wednesday meeting with congressional leaders from both parties. Earlier, Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer proposed a plan to tie Hurricane Harvey relief to a short-term debt ceiling increase until mid-December. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., slammed the plan as “ridiculous and disgraceful,” accusing the Democrats of playing politics with devastated lives and disaster relief funds.
Over the objections of Ryan and virtually every other top Republican — “Basically everyone with an R behind their name,” Axios reports — President Trump agreed to support the Democratic plan. To make matters even worse, the president said Wednesday that his administration will always “automatically” agree on increasing the debt ceiling.
Trump via pool: “Always we’ll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it.”
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) September 6, 2017
The president made a horrendous decision. An unforgivable decision. By agreeing to this plan, he’s ceded the leverage to the Democrats on DACA negotiations, government funding, and every other pet project liberals want to tie to the “must-pass” debt limit in December. By broadcasting that he’ll always support a debt-limit increase, Trump effectively made Chuck Schumer president of the United States.
It works like this: Sen. Schumer declares his intention to tie a no-strings-attached DACA legalization bill to every must-pass bill Congress will consider this fall. These must-pass bills include funding for the government (failing to pass appropriations triggers a government shutdown) and now a mid-December debt-ceiling increase (failing to pass this opens the administration to false accusations of risking government default).
Schumer will tie DACA legalization and other Democrat priorities to this must-pass legislation and then Democrats will threaten to vote “no” if any conservative policies are attached. And, with Trump’s total capitulation Wednesday, Republicans’ hands will be tied, as GOP leadership refuses to risk a government shutdown.
The Democrats get everything they want, Trump will get nothing. No border wall funding. No RAISE Act. No spending cuts. Nothing.
One aide in GOP leadership described Trump’s decision as “total victory” for the Democrats.
Just spoke to a top Republican close to leadership about Trump’s decision. Here’s what they said: pic.twitter.com/iV2y0bVfvk
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) September 6, 2017
House Dem aide on this news: “This is why we didn’t get rid of Pelosi. Went into their stadium and kicked their asses up and down the field” https://t.co/44ZDiogaIA
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 6, 2017
Pelosi and Schumer released a joint statement:
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. Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us. As Democratic leaders, we also made it clear that we strongly believe the DREAM Act must come to the floor and pass as soon as possible and we will not rest until we get this done.
This outcome is truly astonishing; the Democrats had no power whatsoever to control the agenda. There is no reason to surrender on the debt limit, because default is never a real possibility. The government takes in far more revenue than the interest payment on the debt, which precludes the possibility of default since the government can make that interest payment.
In a government shutdown, the president holds all the cards; Congress must either acquiesce to the president’s demands on spending or override his veto. If two-thirds of both houses feel confident in banding together, they have that option — and the president can take his case to the American people during the midterm elections.
In spring, President Trump welcomed this fight. “If there’s a shutdown, there’s a shutdown,” the president said during budget negotiations in April. In early May, he repeated his willingness to fight for his agenda this September (i.e. this debt limit and budget fight right now).
either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
Picture it, if you can: Republicans and Democrats banding together amidst a shutdown to oppose a border wall and spending cuts, and to fight for amnesty for nearly a million illegal immigrants. How would the American people react to both political parties acting in direct contradiction of the agenda that put Donald Trump in office?
We will never know, because President Trump betrayed that agenda — and all its faithful supporters — today.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.