ChrisWeigant.com

White House Tries Deal-Making

[ Posted Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 – 17:09 PDT ]

Amidst all the continuing distractions emanating from the White House these days (I.Q. tests, the N.F.L., World War III, etc.), something interesting and unprecedented has happened in the past few weeks. The Trump administration has begun actual negotiations with Congress, on two contentious issues. It's rather astonishing when you think about it, but this is actually the first time such a thing has happened since Trump took office.

Perhaps it is due to John Kelly's influence, but whatever the reason, over the past month or so the White House has gotten much more engaged on actual legislative policy. Up until this point, Trump was content to let Congress do all the heavy lifting and just sit back and wait for bills appear on his desk for him to sign. This, quite obviously, hasn't worked out so well for Trump, as no bills appeared at all, even with a Congress firmly in Republican hands.

Donald Trump promised, on the campaign trail, that he alone had the greatest healthcare reform plan known to mankind, and that it would cover everybody at a cheaper cost, with better insurance. Obviously, he was flat-out lying, because he had no idea what he wanted in "Trumpcare," just that it successfully "repealed and replaced Obamacare." The only thing Trump added to the debate was a sense of urgency, by refusing to let Congress move on after their initial failure to pass anything. Trump let it be known that this was at the top of his priorities list, and Congress reluctantly spent another half-year wasting everyone's time proving that they couldn't agree among themselves at all.

What was notable in its absence during all of this was any sort of indication what Trump even wanted in the legislation, other than having a bill to sign at the end. The only other thing Congress did during this period was to pass necessary measures on the budget, which meant accepting pretty much everything the Democrats proposed, since congressional Republicans (once again) couldn't agree among themselves what to do. But the White House never got involved in any of the details in any meaningful way.

The last of these agreements was the most stunning, mostly for how public it quickly became and how much of a slap in the face it was to the Republican leadership in Congress. Trump, in a meeting, agreed with "Chuck and Nancy" on their proposal, soundly rejected "Paul and Mitch's" ideas, and a bill was on his desk to sign within two days' time. But again, the White House had little input in the process other than to make the final decision and push Congress to act immediately.

Since then, two notable legislative efforts have begun. In both of these, the White House seems a lot more engaged in the process, in different ways. On tax cuts, the Trump administration worked with Republicans in Congress exclusively, and after eight or nine months finally put out a wish list (not a legislative draft, or even a fully-fleshed out plan). But negotiations had happened, and intraparty compromises had taken place, to some extent.

This really shouldn't be all that notable. This is how the process is really supposed to work, in other words. Republicans can pass tax cuts with their slim majorities, and if there's one issue Republicans should be able to agree upon, it surely must be cutting wealthy people's taxes once again. But again, what is notable here is that the process is actually happening -- the first time Trump has tried to work things out before big contentious debates among Republicans in Congress begin.

The second instance is even more interesting. After Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi's spectacular success with the debt ceiling/budget/hurricane relief bill, they sat down for some Chinese food with Trump, with no Republicans present. At this dinner, a deal was reportedly struck on fixing the DACA situation Trump had created. Or, at the very least, a deal to make a deal was struck. Or something. Accounts began differing almost immediately as to what was actually agreed upon. What all parties did seem to agree upon was that the sooner this deal could be passed, the better.

Last Sunday, the Trump White House made their opening bid. It was, to put it mildly, not exactly what Chuck and Nancy expected. The dinner deal, according to them, was to essentially pass the original DREAM Act, which would have legalized the Dreamers and given them an eventual path to citizenship. In exchange, Trump would not get any money for his wall, but would get a boost in border security in the form of more Border Patrol agents and assets (but, again, no wall). This would not be comprehensive immigration reform, it would instead be a narrowly-tailored deal to address the DACA repeal and give Trump a boost in border security to brag about.

Trump reportedly gave the task of coming up with the administration's position to Stephen Miller, who (unlike Steve Bannon) still has a job at the White House despite his rather extreme views. The result was about what you'd expect -- a total rejection of the deal that Trump originally agreed to. At the top of the list was full funding for the wall. The rest of the proposal is a right-wing wish list of anti-immigration priorities, none of which was even discussed in the dinner meeting. Legal immigration would be drastically reduced, including a crackdown on Central American minors. Grants to sanctuary cities would be cut. And, for the Dreamers, no path to citizenship at all. They'd live here the rest of their lives without being able to participate in the democratic process by voting, in other words.

Although pretty ham-handed, this does represent the first time the White House has actually tried any legislative deal-making with the Democrats. Unlike the tax proposal, this is a debate between the Trump White House and Chuck and Nancy.

Schumer and Pelosi, of course, have not only rejected the proposal out of hand, they have expressed their outrage over what was included. They have a right to be angry, because this isn't even in the same ballpark as what they discussed with Trump at their dinner. There are cries within the Democratic caucus to refuse to support any budget in December without a DACA resolution (which might lead to a government shutdown or even a debt ceiling crisis). So far, the Democratic leadership hasn't supported this effort, but that it exists at all tells you how deeply insulted some Democrats are by the White House proposal.

Perhaps (as some are pondering) this is just the White House's "opening bid." If that is true, then Democrats should follow through and release their own priorities list -- including a list of items which are deal-breakers for them. "Any bill cannot include the following, or it will garner no Democratic support..." in other words. Perhaps this will become a standard political negotiation, and some narrow compromise can still be achieved. Perhaps it will blow up in everyone's faces, too.

But however things shake out, the interesting thing that few are noticing is that the Trump administration -- after almost ten months in office -- is finally involving itself in the legislative process in a meaningful way. Up until this point, their involvement has been limited to Trump pressuring Congress to get something -- anything -- done, and get it on his desk to sign, no matter what it contains. On both taxes and the Dreamers, though, the White House is finally making the attempt to use the levers of power the way they have traditionally been used. Perhaps Trump has learned that just shoving a bill through and threatening everyone to vote for it just hasn't worked and isn't likely to work any time soon. Or perhaps it is Chief of Staff John Kelly's influence. Whatever the cause, though, and however the process ends, the fact that the process even exists is what is noteworthy, for the Trump White House.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

20 Comments on “White House Tries Deal-Making”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The Chinese food should have been a clue. Trump's promises are just like Chinese food- an hour later and you're hungry again like you didn't eat anything.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Perhaps it is due to John Kelly's influence, but whatever the reason, over the past month or so the White House has gotten much more engaged on actual legislative policy ... the interesting thing that few are noticing is that the Trump administration -- after almost ten months in office -- is finally involving itself in the legislative process in a meaningful way.

    Perhaps Trump has learned that just shoving a bill through and threatening everyone to vote for it just hasn't worked and isn't likely to work any time soon. Or perhaps it is Chief of Staff John Kelly's influence. Whatever the cause, though, and however the process ends, the fact that the process even exists is what is noteworthy, for the Trump White House.

    That is quite a low bar you are setting for the Trump White House ...

    I wonder how low it can go.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Trump is either fit for the office he holds or unfit.

    Time to decide which one it is.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The next president will have a lot of work to do to restore the promise of America, let alone move it forward.

    If the next president fails to accomplish this critical goal, then I'm afraid that America will have lost its way - at home and in the world.

    We should remember this whenever we feel the urge to note when this administration succeeds in reaching the lowest common expectation.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Is there anyone out there!?"

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I mean other than Don.

    :-)

    Sorry, Don, but you understand I couldn't resist. Heh.

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz-
    It's OK. I am out here on purpose because I've seen what's in there.

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Actually, we missed the the time to decide.

  9. [9] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey gang

    Joe Biden punching left-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNUXVjY69zk

    Forget that Americans are struggling and angry, he wants Dems to love the rich and corporations, and thinks anti-populism is the way for Dems to win.

    CW, this was from a Politico article.
    I won't read their crap, but I thought you'd have caught this truly embarrassing Romney imitation.

    Oh Joe.

    A

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, there is still time to decide but, not a lot. At least, not without looking awfully foolish for taking so long to decide.

    I mean, it's not like we don't have enough information today to make the right decision.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    altohone,

    CW, this was from a Politico article. I won't read their crap, but I thought you'd have caught this truly embarrassing Romney imitation.

    Have a little patience. Maybe he's saving it for FTP's MDDOTW award ...

  12. [12] 
    John M wrote:

    [2] Elizabeth Miller

    "That is quite a low bar you are setting for the Trump White House ...

    I wonder how low it can go."

    Do we REALLY want to find out the answer to that question?

    I mean, this is the President who just speculated about pulling NBC's operating license over them reporting something he did not like. Isn't that what Dictators do?

    C.W. what's your journalistic response to that?

    Also, Elizabeth, what did you think of the Prime Ministers question and answer time with the press after his meeting with Trump?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, John, I'd rather not find out the answer to that question. And, certainly not here at CW.com!

    I missed the big presser today - I'll watch it later and give you my impressions ...

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I don't suppose you have a video link for that presser, John, do you?

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Liz - 5

    "Is there anyone out there!?"

    Yes, but two things have blown up. One is my water heater, which must be dealt with.

    The other is the Pressure Cooker In Chief, who has left an awful mess. I don't see any deals happening. Trump is certifiably nuts, can't be trusted and everybody, with possible exception of Hannity, knows it. According to the usually reliable leakage out of the White House ("Your Most Trusted News Source"), Senior Staff are talking among themselves about tackling the President should he go "nuke happy"....and not in a metaphorical manner. I mean physically taking down a 300 lb, 70 year old man, with a low center of gravity centered slightly north of his hips...before he can start WWIII. The Constitution provides little practical guidance on how to do this.

    This is the New National Normal.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Is there anyone out there!?

    i've always considered myself somewhat out there.

    JL

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What movie is that from?

  18. [18] 
    John M wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller [14]

    Sorry Elizabeth I don't have an immediate link for you. Maybe someone else has? I actually just happened to catch coverage of it on television while it was taking place.

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:
  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    EM
    JM

    Above link is before the meeting, while below link contains the press conference. Now there is one tall drink of water... not the PM, the actual glass to his right. :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbkrxtm7qcE

Leave a Reply

[If you have questions as to how to register or log in, to be able to post comments here, or if you'd like advanced commenting and formatting tips, please visit our "Commenting Tips" page, for further details.]

You must be logged in to post a comment.
If you are a new user, please register so you can post comments here.

[The first time you post a comment (after creating your user name and logging in), it will be held for approval. Please be patient (as it may take awhile). After your first comment has been approved, you will be able to post further comments instantly and automatically.]