President Trump handed Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer the deal of the century this morning.
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.
Here's what Trump did:
He ignored the pleas of his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and of Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and he sided with the Pelosi-Schumer plan to combine Hurricane Harvey relief funding with extending the debt limit and funding the government, both for three months. (GOP leaders wanted to extend the debt limit for 18 months.)Republican leadership sources say Democrats were bluffing and would never follow through on their threat to oppose a longer-term debt ceiling increase.Why this matters: Hurricane Harvey gave Republican leadership a rare opportunity to take the most controversial and politically toxic item — the debt ceiling — off the table for the rest of this Congress. Trump has blown up that opportunity.
When the debt ceiling and government funding bills expire in December, Democrats will have all the leverage, because Republicans can't pass a CR or debt ceiling without Democratic votes.That will also force Republicans to support a funding bill that legalizes the protection of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children (the DACA program that Trump says he'll end in six months if Congress doesn't act.)
A top Republican close to leadership captures the prevailing sentiment on Capitol Hill today: "Dems bluffed their way into total victory."