Glints Of Bipartisanship Emerge In Washington

Sep 9, 2017
Originally published on September 9, 2017 3:06 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Both Hurricane Irma and Harvey have also had some impact in Washington, D.C., where a few glints of partisanship have broken out. NPR senior political correspondent and editor Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Have the hurricanes - is it just sentimental nonsense, or have the hurricanes changed the political calculus in Washington, D.C.?

ELVING: These storms have been bad enough to make even Washington snap to attention, Scott, and to make the two parties get together and do things like passing emergency spending bills for the hurricane victims. And of course, Washington also knows how to seize a crisis moment like this to move other more controversial things as well. So this vote this week for the hurricane victims also relaxed the limit on the national debt and agreed to continue spending for all federal programs at current levels until mid-December. And what's more, both of those things were done without any trade-offs for the fiscal hawks. And so 90 conservative House Republicans voted no on the package, and the Democrats provided the votes to put it over.

SIMON: Yeah. Have these storms and the political crisis that attend them changed what you can detect in what I'll call President Trump's governing deportment?

ELVING: It looks like it's been something of a learning experience for him, how to work the two parties against each other in such a moment - and also a learning moment for the rest of us as we got a different look at a different kind of Donald Trump, not the guy at the rally rabbling - rousing some sort of excited crowd to a fever pitch, but the dealmaker guy we used to hear about, the guy who, quote, "talks New York," unquote, with the senator from that state, Chuck Schumer, another guy from the boroughs of New York City. And, you know, Chuck is a kind of a homeboy to him, and he's also the Democratic leader of the Senate. And they made this deal happen.

SIMON: Yeah. And Nancy Pelosi, for that matter, is the creature of a big-city political organization...

(CROSSTALK)

ELVING: Baltimore...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: Yeah, Baltimore.

SIMON: And of course represents San Francisco now. The president looked positively rollicking with Senator Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. If you could get a picture of the president and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, would it look different?

ELVING: Yeah (laughter). Someone once said that Calvin Coolidge looked like he had been weaned on a pickle.

SIMON: (Laughter).

ELVING: I think you get my point.

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: You know, Ryan and McConnell thought that Trump would back their terms for the fiscal crunch. They knew what was going to happen with hurricane aid. They knew there was going to be an effort to use that as a vehicle. And what they wanted was a much longer extension or a suspension on the debt limit so that they could get it out there past the next midterm election. And they also wanted a very different package in terms of the spending extensions. And he just pulled the Oval Office rug right out from under them.

SIMON: Yeah.

Tough issues coming up in Congress over the next couple of months - they've been, of course, challenged to come up with immigration reform in the next six months and resolve the issue of the DREAMers, people who came to this country with their parents illegally when they were young, many of them of course now working, going to school, in the armed forces - good citizens. And of course, the Congress has also kind of promised to do something about health care. Any issues closer to resolution after the events of this week?

ELVING: Not necessarily at this point. But we may be seeing a way forward. We're glimpsing this in Trump's new and demonstrated willingness to work with either party - or both parties - to get something that looks good for him. So for example, DACA could wind up being made permanent by statute. That is the policy by which the DREAMers were allowed to stay in this country. That could actually become law, which was what President Obama always wanted to do, but Congress wouldn't let him. So that would be a great resolution for the DREAMers. It would be a marvelous trophy for Donald Trump. And to some degree, that would appear to be the bottom line.

SIMON: Weaned on a pickle - I'm going to remember (laughter) that for some time. Thanks very much for...

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: ...Elevating our intelligence once again. NPR's Ron Elving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.