by Brent Budowsky
When President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached a major three-month debt ceiling and government spending deal in a White House meeting on Wednesday, they formed a short-term alliance that has game-changing potential for government in Washington during the Trump presidency.
Democratic leaders in Congress wanted a three-month deal to extend the debt ceiling and fund the government because it would give them leverage on major issues pending before Congress. Republican leaders in Congress strongly opposed the three-month deal for this reason, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calling a three-month debt ceiling extension “ridiculous” and “disgraceful” before Trump sided with Democrats and agreed to the deal.
If the three-month agreement is approved by Congress, which is now likely, there will be an intense, high-stakes showdown in December, on a playing field favorable for Democrats, over some of the most contentious issues facing the president and Congress.
There is a very realistic possibility that Democrats and key Republicans can forge a major agreement to enact a form of the Dream Act that will put to rest the fears of Dreamers who are threatened by Trump with deportation if Congress does not act within six months.
Many thoughtful Republicans in Congress have said in recent days that they believe the Dreamers are worthy of support. Trump, who created the crisis for Dreamers this week, now shows signs of realizing that he should reverse course and support the Dreamers going forward.
It is possible that some Republicans in Congress, and possibly President Trump, will try to threaten a government shutdown before the December spending showdown if funding for the border wall is not included in must-pass legislation. This is unlikely to succeed because some Republicans in Congress do not support funding for the wall, while Democrats adamantly oppose it.
It is ironic but revealing that, while Trump has not won a single major legislative victory in his first seven months in office, his first major victory could well be a deal with Democratic leaders that was opposed by Republican leaders.
While Schumer and Pelosi won a huge victory with the three-month deal, tensions between Trump and key Republicans in Congress are destined to escalate, potentially to white hot levels. When the showdown arrives in December, Democrats will have bargaining leverage and many of the issues that will be joined between now and December work to the political advantage of Democrats as the midterm elections in 2018 come ever closer.
Democrats and Republicans know that many voters favor support for the Dreamers, while the Trump-proposed wall on the Mexican border would be highly expensive and is not supported by many Republicans in Congress.
Democrats and Republicans know that the ill-advised GOP plans to repeal and replace ObamaCare is one of the most unpopular major proposals in modern political history, while a majority of voters favor some version of the liberal proposal for a public option or expanded Medicare.
Any hugely unpopular “repeal and replace” plan is highly unlikely to pass. A significant bipartisan ObamaCare fix, which has long been advocated by Democrats, is now much more likely to pass Congress this year.
The pattern of the Trump presidency in recent weeks is clear. White House chief of staff John Kelly is executing a game-changing virtual purge of far-right and alt right advocates from the White House staff. Trump, who continues to periodically offer red meat to his base on racially charged issues, has now made a dramatic deal with Democratic leaders that was vehemently opposed by Republican leaders.
The legislative fact is that it is almost impossible for a Republican president to govern exclusively with a GOP Congress without Democratic support, at a time when Republicans in Congress are increasingly divided internally and increasingly worried about the Trump presidency.
Give Schumer and Pelosi great credit for seizing a political advantage for Democrats. Give Trump credit for governing the way a president should by reaching a deal with top Democrats even if it was vehemently opposed by top Republicans.
Stay tuned for a probable civil war within the GOP pitting feuding factions against each other, and a resurgent Democratic Party making a strong bid to regain control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.