This agreement does not help the GOP all that much. It is not even clear that Trump’s own Cabinet officials agree with him on this short-term deal:
Here’s a survey of analyses on what went down. They are not terribly favorable assessments of Trump’s deal. Consider CNN:
The remarkable turn of events left Republican congressional leaders, in control of both chambers of the legislative branch, “shell-shocked” and “visibly annoyed,” and showcased how a president who also authored “The Art of the Deal” actually cuts one.Trump’s stunning agreement to endorse a plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came during a Wednesday morning meeting with leaders from both parties in the Oval Office, the first such meeting of Trump’s presidency.Several Republicans briefed on the meeting said that Trump, who has been absent a major legislative achievement for his first seven months in office, was hungry for a deal. It also came after he was warned of a packed legislative calendar that could have pushed off tax reform past this fall.
Trump as a desperate dealmaker? Say it isn’t so…
The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng suggest that Trump did have another motive: sticking it to the GOP leadership in Congress:
For all his famed negotiating skills, Trump emerged from the meeting having handed Democrats a legislative triumph. But according to sources close to Trump, the president was more than willing to cut the deal because he has grown tired, if not resentful, of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.Multiple West Wing sources told The Daily Beast how the president was looking to strike a quick and easy deal — and that his speed reaching this specific arrangement was in part ensured by his resentment toward Republican leaders, who Trump views as hostile, insufficiently loyal, and impotent. It was well-known within the White House that President Trump, going into the meeting, was “not looking to do [Ryan and McConnell] any favors,” as one White House official put it.Simply put, the president made a “deliberate decision not to care about Ryan’s feelings” and did what he wanted, another White House adviser said.
“A three-month debt ceiling? Why not do a daily debt ceiling?” cracked Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “He’s the best deal-maker ever. Don’t you know? I mean, he’s got a book out!”Trump’s deal with Democrats doesn’t appear to help Republicans at all. While it averts a fall government shutdown and a default on the nation’s debt until at least December, it also emboldens Democrats to push for immigration changes or spending priorities without giving an inch to the right.Congress will likely have to strike a major bipartisan fiscal deal in December to raise the debt ceiling long term and keep the government open for the remainder of fiscal 2018. And Republican lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol complained Wednesday that Trump probably just undercut leadership in those future negotiations, making it even harder for them to secure legislative wins. …“The president has to understand he doesn’t have a leadership problem, he has a membership problem,” said one GOP senator friendly with both the White House and McConnell, referring to rank-and-file Republicans rather than GOP leaders.
Axios’s Jonathan Swan offers a similar take from the congressional wing of the GOP:
One top Republican described the move to me as the legislative equivalent of giving an entire stockpile of weapons to Democrats and inviting them to take the entire Republican Party hostage. Republicans are in a state of shock.Sources inside and close to leadership have used the full range of expletives in text messages reacting to what Trump did this morning. I’ve yet to speak to a White House official who can convincingly explain Trump’s logic. …A top Republican close to leadership captures the prevailing sentiment on Capitol Hill today: “Dems bluffed their way into total victory.”
How bad was this deal for the GOP? It was so bad that Breitbart’s coverage was actually … evenhanded? Sure, Breitbart columnist Joel Pollak wrote a column arguing that this deal was a warning to the GOP leadership of Trump’s canniness. Breitbart’s White House reporter Charlie Spiering, however, seemed more sympathetic to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) than Trump. For one thing, the headline was, “Meet the Swamp: Donald Trump Punts Agenda to December After Meeting With Congress.” In the story itself:
“We had a very good meeting. We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good,” Trump said.Republican leaders, however, had expressed before the meeting that they wanted a more substantial debt ceiling deal or some long-term legislation.
Just so we’re clear, this is not a great deal for the country either. The fewer high-stakes partisan battles we have about the debt ceiling and government shutdowns the better; this deal guarantees another one in just three months.
I am not an expert, but it really does seem as though Trump agreed to this in a fit of pique to make the GOP leadership suffer. He did not get much in return except to punt this showdown to December. It comes on the heels of Trump’s controversial DACA decision, his soft poll numbers and his summer of stupid statements.
All of this leaves me somewhat dubious that Trump will be able to accomplish anything of substance with Congress, period. Whether Trump realizes this is unclear, because there is a faction of the GOP that will follow Trump to the ends of the Earth. They were out in force last evening, and boy do they sound super-confident:
There is a fraction of Trump’s base that will never abandon him, that believes any misstep is really a brilliant example of eight-dimensional chess from the master negotiator. Everyone else, however, is scratching their heads trying to make sense of this. Me, too. I am growing increasingly confident that Trump could not bargain his way out of a paper bag.