Watch it all if you can spare the time, but if not, things start to pick up at 4:45. Sasse wanted a clean hurricane relief bill, not the Trump-brokered compromise that tacks on three months of government funding and a debt-ceiling hike, setting up a fiscal-cliff showdown with Democrats before New Year’s. Once upon a time, in 2012, conservatives like Ted Cruz opposed the Hurricane Sandy relief bill for similar reasons, because it contained extraneous spending unrelated to disaster aid that should have been dealt with separately. Fast-forward five years and Cruz is onboard with this new bill — and no wonder, since the relief is for his home state and he’s up for reelection in 15 months. Seventeen Republicans voted no today, though, Sasse among them, because a bill that hands Schumer and Pelosi bargaining power in December is guaranteed to flood the swamp rather than drain it. Quote: “This is an embarrassing moment for a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican administration.”
His best point comes at around 5:45. The chief spin on the right in defense of Trump’s sellout yesterday is that it “clears the table” so that the GOP can focus on tax reform for the next three months. Not true, says Sasse. Dealing with the debt ceiling and government funding now would have cleared the table; by punting to December, Trump ensured that the upcoming fiscal showdown will cast a shadow over tax negotiations, with Republicans mindful of Schumer’s leverage. Worse, by betraying GOP leaders on the timetable, Trump has damaged his relationship with them, making unity on tax reform harder.
I think Trump honestly believes that Democrats are going to fund the border wall in December as part of a grand bargain to raise the debt ceiling and avert a shutdown. He didn’t want a showdown with them over that right now because the country’s focused on storm damage and won’t stand for a needless crisis of Uncle Sam’s own making — but he does want a showdown with them eventually, sooner rather than later. That’s the best explanation I can manage for why he preferred a short-term solution to a long-term one. Unless, of course, he and his new friend Chuck manage to blow up the debt ceiling altogether before then. That also wouldn’t be conducive to “draining the swamp,” but it would make fiscal standoffs much harder for conservatives like Sasse to engineer.