President Donald Trump surprised the leaders of his own party in Congress on Wednesday when he backed a deal pushed by Democrats to attach hurricane relief money to a shorter-term bump in the debt ceiling as well as keeping the government open, cutting off his own Treasury secretary to strike a deal.
The decision was one of the most fascinating and mysterious moves he’s made with Congress during eight months in office.
The remarkable turn of events left Republican congressional leaders, in control of both chambers of the legislative branch, “shell-shocked” and “visibly annoyed,” and showcased how a President who also authored “The Art of the Deal” actually cuts one.
Trump’s stunning agreement to endorse a plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came during a Wednesday morning meeting with leaders from both parties in the Oval Office, the first such meeting of Trump’s presidency.
Democratic leaders dismissed all of their proposals, standing firm by their three-month extension plan, which they had publicly endorsed in a joint statement before the meeting.
A source briefed on the meeting said the top Hill Republicans — McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — and Trump’s own Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, echoed Ryan’s concerns about such a debt limit and warned against problems caused by a shorter-term solution.
According to one source familiar with the events, Mnuchin was in the middle of arguing for a longer-term deal in the meeting when the President abruptly cut him off and sided with the Democrats.
The meeting came a day after Trump met separately with Republican congressional leaders and listened as they sought to deliver a reality check on tax reform.
Tax reform was unlikely to glide through Congress and hit the President’s desk before Thanksgiving, as Trump has hoped would be the case, the GOP leaders told him Tuesday. Leadership needed time to build consensus among Republicans and, most importantly, the legislative calendar in September was packed with a need for action that superseded tax reform, according to two sources familiar with Tuesday’s meeting.