GOP Lawmakers Prepare To Vote On Spending Deal Trump Cut With Democrats

Sep 7, 2017
Originally published on September 8, 2017 8:03 am
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Senators approved a short-term budget deal today. It includes more than $15 billion in relief to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The House is expected to pass it tomorrow. President Trump struck this deal with Democrats, and the fact that he went around his own party is rattling Trump's conservative allies while Democrats say it could be the beginning of an unlikely partnership. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis reports on the shifting power dynamics on Capitol Hill.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: For months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan have said they just want President Trump to tweet less. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today instead saw the president's Twitter habit as an opportunity.

NANCY PELOSI: I was reporting to my colleagues. I said, this is what I asked the president to do it. And boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared. So that was good.

DAVIS: In a morning telephone conversation, Pelosi asked the president to tweet out assurances to immigrants affected by his plan to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The president obliged, tweeting out, you have nothing to worry about. Congressional Republicans may not be so lucky. The president's decision to side with Democrats on a short-term budget deal that punts fights over spending and the debt until mid-December shocked members of his own party.

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MARK MEADOWS: You know, everybody's surprised. And I think we're all surprised at the three-month deal on a debt ceiling. It's not something that any of us advocated for.

DAVIS: That's North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows speaking at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News. Meadows is the leader of the Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line conservatives who are having a hard time understanding the president's strategy. That includes Ohio Republican Warren Davidson. He's concerned that a Republican-controlled Congress is veering off course from their agenda.

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WARREN DAVIDSON: We have a playbook, but those aren't the plays we're calling. And if our playbook was run, I think a lot of people know we would be talking about debt ceiling. We would be talking about Obamacare, and we'd be talking about taxes. Instead we're being dictated terms and conditions by Democrats while they're in the minority.

DAVIS: Conservatives might have to get used to it. At the White House today, President Trump said the budget deal brings the promise of more bipartisanship in Washington.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it does, yes. I think it does. I think we're going to have...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible).

TRUMP: I think we will have a different relationship than you've been watching over the last number of years.

DAVIS: The president also praised Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer by name but made no mention of Ryan or McConnell. And he said together they will again come up with a deal to raise the debt limit later this year.

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TRUMP: We have a great respect for the sanctity of the debt ceiling. And Chuck does, and Nancy does. And we all do. So that will never be a problem.

DAVIS: The speaker told reporters today he still views the president as a trustworthy negotiating partner. That's despite the fact that going into yesterday's meeting he called the same plan disgraceful. But today...

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PAUL RYAN: I know there's a lot of interpretations in all of this stuff about the meeting yesterday. Isn't it a good thing that congressional leaders talk?

DAVIS: Congressional Democrats and the president are also talking about cutting a bipartisan immigration deal this year. Pelosi thinks it can happen.

PELOSI: Both yesterday in the meeting and today made it very clear he wants Congress to act to get this done.

DAVIS: That is at odds with essentially every congressional Republican. They want to focus the rest of the year almost exclusively on passing a tax cut. The shift has conservatives like Meadows forecasting the possibility of a dark December.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEADOWS: And if we get to December and we do not repeal and replace Obamacare, we've not built the wall, we've not done tax reform, let me just tell you. It is not going to be pretty.

DAVIS: Meadow says that could mean open warfare within the Republican Party and from the voters that sent them here.

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MEADOWS: I think there's going to be rebellion against everybody, not just the leadership.

DAVIS: Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi sees blue skies ahead.

PELOSI: So let's hope that this is a sign of something to come. But you never know where your shared interests might be.

DAVIS: And lawmakers never seem to know which direction Trump is leading them. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.