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A Man in Paul Ryan’s Position Can’t Afford to be Made to Look Ridiculous

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The genesis of Trump cutting a deal with congressional Dems appears to be counterproductive Freedom Caucus wankery:

For weeks, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, had been plotting a strategy to use the debt-ceiling vote to extract concessions from Donald Trump and his fellow-Republicans. Over the weekend, the White House and Senate Republicans indicated that they wanted a debt-ceiling increase attached to a bill to provide immediate aid for areas of Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey. The plan was perfect for the G.O.P. The House would pass a “clean” debt ceiling that most Republicans would probably support. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, would add the Harvey money and pass the two bills together with the help of Democrats. The plan was to raise the debt ceiling for eighteen months, which would kick the next difficult vote past the 2018 midterm elections. In the House, such a bill likely would have lost some votes from both parties, but, given the urgency of the hurricane aid, it was a decent bet to pass. Best of all, for G.O.P. leaders, the bill would have taken away the Democrats’ debt-ceiling leverage from the coming debates on immigration, government spending, and health care.

But, when conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items.

Say this for the tea party nuts — they’re apparently willing to inflict damage on a president from their own party with this debt ceiling hostage-taking.

At his morning press conference, Ryan had been withering about this idea. “Let’s just think about this,” he said. “We’ve got all this devastation in Texas. We’ve got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida. And they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? That will strand the aid that we need to bring to these victims of these storms that have occurred or are about to occur. And then they also want to threaten default on our debt? I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment.”

LOL yes, if there’s anything the Republican leadership has recently stood for, it’s the principle that it’s objectionable to play politics with the debt ceiling.

He added that the idea was “unworkable,” and, speaking for Trump, noted, “What the President doesn’t want to do is to give more leverage where it shouldn’t occur on the debt ceiling.”

An hour later, in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request.
After the deal was announced, Republicans inside and outside of government were shocked. Ryan was left looking ridiculous. “Trump’s made a career out of being a gut player,” a Republican close to McConnell told me. “The problem is, his gut is always wrong when it comes to advancing a legislative agenda.” Yet, aboard Air Force One, Trump seemed pleased with the deal. “We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” Trump said. “We agreed to a three-month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred.” When I called around to Democratic offices on Wednesday afternoon, several aides were careful not to gloat about what they had accomplished, lest Trump realize how much he had given away to “Chuck and Nancy,” as Trump called the Democratic leaders several times in his gaggle with reporters.

LOL. Ryan’s decision to start with health care instead of tax cuts to get a permanent cut he never had the votes for anyway is looking dumber than ever. The impulsive political amateur in the White House now doesn’t trust him to deliver anything, and you have to admit Trump has a point.

I remain skeptical that Trump’s dysfunction portends any transformation of the current partisan order — I don’t see Trump deals with Dems becoming a pattern with Ryan and McConnell still in charge of the House and Senate — but this definitely has to be considered a point for Team Disjunction.

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