Thursday, September 7, 2017

Trump Sides With Democrats On Fiscal Policy

Donald Trump surprised everyone by striking a deal with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.  The deal extended the pending government debt limit from the end of September to December.  It was paired with funds for the damages from Harvey in Texas.  The deal surprised Paul Ryan who is the Republican Speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell who is the Republican Majority leader in the Senate.  Ryan criticized extending the debt limit to December.  McConnell was totally surprised that Trump did the deal without his knowledge with Democratic leaders.  Ultimately, McConnell added billions in spending to the deal for the likely damages in Florida from hurricane Irma.  Although Ryan and McConnell were blindsided by Trump's deal with Democrats, the biggest losers in the deal were far right conservatives in the House and in the Senate.  They prefer to use the government debt ceiling rule to win concessions from the government on spending cuts.  This deal extended the debt ceiling to December but it did not include spending cuts.  The basic goal of the Freedom Caucus is to reduce the role of government in society.  The easiest way to accomplish that objective is contain government spending, especially on programs that they don't like.

Freedom Caucus leaders have been in discussions with Steve Bannon who has left the Trump administration to head Breitbart News which preaches far right ideas to the conservative base.  Trump may have to deal with the loss of support from the far right which helped him to win the election.  On the other hand,  Trump is totally opposed to reducing the role of government in many of the areas opposed by his far right base.  He also has no ideological commitment to a limited government,  In fact, he wants to invest billions in an infrastructure plan that will not set well with the Freedom Caucus. 

Trump's bipartisan deal with Democrats underscores the divisions within the Republican Party.  Opposition to the healthcare bill from conservatives led to a defeat for Trump when he expected to announce a victory.  Not a single Democratic senator voted for the healthcare bill which was extensively crippled by conservative Republicans.  That required McConnell to get almost all Republican senators to vote for the bill,  John McCain sunk the bill when he joined two other Republican senators in voting against the bill.  Trump may have decided that his real enemies are not Democrats.  The anti-government Republicans, who have been his strongest supporters have also made it difficult for him to govern.  He might be more effective with a coalition of moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats.  This will be a test of that theory. 

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