President Trump has put Republican leaders through hell trying to avoid a government shutdown. First, he urged them to come to an agreement with Democrats on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security, only to torch the deal. He repeatedly changed the terms of what he wanted, drawing exasperated responses from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others. Then came that infamous tweet Thursday shaking up the whole process by coming out against a key piece of the short-term bill meant to temporarily stave off the shutdown.
And now, as if to stick his thumb in their eyes again, he appears to be trying to negotiate an end to the shutdown without them in the room.
It was just reported that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been invited to the White House for a meeting without other congressional leaders — an apparent signal that Trump wants to bring this whole thing to an end. But if the two of them can do it, GOP leaders may not approve the details, and Trump would undoubtedly take credit for it over them.
That wouldn't be of particular concern if he were a normal president, but Trump is decidedly not that. As the past couple weeks have shown, his position is often malleable based upon the last person who has spoken to him. Trump seemed to support a bipartisan immigration deal last week, according to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), before some hard-liners got hold of his ear. And for a period of time on Friday, with the shutdown looming and Trump perhaps anxious to restore his planned weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago, the only person with Trump's ear will have been Schumer.
And Republicans weren't really even hiding their displeasure. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of leadership, flatly told Igor Bobic that he's concerned.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, basically copped to the same feeling.
The White House, for what it's worth, insists that a deal won't be cut with Schumer at the meeting. But it's really not difficult to see it happening in some form or another. And it's really difficult to see why McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) shouldn't be there.
On some level, this is the bargain Republicans have struck with Trump. They know he's unpredictable, inconsistent and not terribly loyal to their party or to them. He has publicly criticized McConnell at times, making him hugely unpopular and a bogeyman in Republican primaries. And he has made a deal without them before (you may remember the whole "Chuck and Nancy" thing). They have decided that he is their ticket to passing legislation and/or that he has more leverage on them than they have on him.
But frustration with Trump was clearly on the verge of boiling over on Wednesday and Thursday, with Republicans making some pretty tough public comments about Trump. And now they're clearly not happy that Trump is going over their heads to meet with Schumer. At some point, you have to think they might push back a little more forcefully. I guess we'll first have to see what comes of the latest round of Donald and Chuck.