I thought there’d be some middle phase in Trump’s drift towards the left between “Trump agrees to Democratic timetable on fiscal issues” and “Trump agrees to blow up legal limits on borrowing by U.S. Treasury.” My mistake.
Condolences to Mark Meadows and other Freedom Caucus members on the aneurysms they’re all about to have. At the rate the president is moving towards Democrats, we might end up with single-payer by Christmas.
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have agreed to pursue a deal that would permanently remove the requirement that Congress repeatedly raise the debt ceiling, three people familiar with the decision said.
Trump and Schumer discussed the idea Wednesday during an Oval Office meeting. Schumer, Trump, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.–Calif.) agreed to work together over the next several months to see if they can finalize a plan, which would need to be approved by Congress…
“The President encouraged Congressional leaders to find a more permanent solution to the debt ceiling so the vote is not so frequently politicized,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Imagine if the biggest achievement of Trump’s first year as president is blowing up the debt ceiling completely. Never again will House conservatives be able to use it as leverage to try to get spending cuts. It’s one thing for Trump to take away their leverage temporarily by agreeing to a clean debt-ceiling hike this month or in December, it’s another to take it away permanently by repealing the debt ceiling altogether.
But it’s defensible. To repeat what I said here, there’s no scenario in which conservatives use the debt ceiling to successfully squeeze Democrats for major fiscal concessions. There simply isn’t enough support nationally for smaller government for the GOP to win a PR war over a technical default by the United States triggered by conservatives holding out for significant spending cuts or entitlement reform. And Ryan and McConnell know it, which is why they’ll always cave to Democratic demands for a clean debt-ceiling hike as the default deadline approaches. The alternative, instigating an international fiscal crisis in the name of shrinking government, would be so toxically unpopular that the party would lose its majorities. You can argue that Meadows and the Freedom Caucus don’t owe anything to the country writ large, only to their very red districts, and that their districts would support a debt-ceiling standoff. But if you think the Freedom Caucus is powerless now, wait and see how powerless they are when Pelosi’s back in charge of the House.
Whether Trump realizes that debt-ceiling standoffs are a fool’s game for the GOP or whether he’s simply enticed by the thought of another splashy “deal,” only he knows. But I do think there’s a chance that repealing the debt ceiling might pass Congress despite the obvious opposition it’ll receive from many Republicans. Meadows and Rand Paul and their allies will loathe the idea but McConnell and Ryan will quite like the thought of never having to deal with the headache of debt-ceiling brinksmanship ever again. Democrats will vote for it uniformly, I assume. *If* Trump puts some real political muscle behind it, framing repeal of the debt ceiling as a means of defusing a bomb that’s continually at risk of going off under Americans’ feet, he could provide enough cover for moderate Republicans in the House and Senate to get it done. Still, this is a dagger aimed at the heart of fiscal conservatives; if he follows through on it, it’ll taint his relationship with Meadows et al. forever. He may be stuck trying to forge bipartisan majorities on everything going forward as fiscal conservatives will be reluctant to support him on anything except the most popular measures.
Speaking of which:
How far is this new Trump/Schumer alliance going to go?