Art of the deal? Trump wins big for disaster aid, Pelosi-Schumer pact

This pretty much describes today’s event:

It didn’t take long for Congress to act on Donald Trump’s deal with Democratic leaders. After an 80-17 win in the Senate yesterday, the House passed it by more than a 3:1 margin:


The House on Friday cleared a short-term measure to avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt limit into December, ratifying a deal President Trump struck with Democrats.

Lawmakers voted 316-90 for the package that includes more than $15 billion in disaster recovery aid for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The majority of House Republicans voted for the bill, something that had been uncertain, but the majority of yes votes came from Democrats.

Ninety lawmakers voted against the bill, all of them Republicans.

Paul Ryan tried to put the best spin on it, albeit while still registering his own objections:

“Personally, I think the debt limit, and the credit markets — the longer, the better — for the stability of the credit markets. That’s my strong opinion,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said Thursday.

Ryan said Trump “was interested in making sure that this is a bipartisan moment while we respond to these hurricanes, and he made that clear.” The Senate cleared the package Thursday afternoon in a 80-to-17 vote, with only Republicans opposing the bill.

Well, they certainly succeeded on the bipartisan moment. In fact, it’s surprising just how little opposition emerged from Republican ranks. In both chambers, majorities of Republicans supported the end result, with only a third of Senate Republicans balking and close to the same percentage in the House. Even if only Republicans got to vote on a veto override, it would still almost certainly pass.


Some of that has to do with the need to get relief spending in place, of course, which was the point of using the relief bill as leverage. Still, that outcome might have Trump even more enthused about pressing his “gentlemen’s agreement” on ending the debt-ceiling fight permanently, despite his previous enthusiasm for the ceiling as a bargaining chip:

President Trump on Thursday signaled openness to a proposal to effectively eliminate the federal limit on government borrowing, a dramatic reversal from his view as a candidate and the long-standing position of the Republican Party that the debt limit should be raised only if other steps are taken to restrain the size of government.

On Wednesday, Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D–N.Y.) reached what one senior White House official called a “gentlemen’s agreement” to develop a plan that would no longer require Congress to routinely raise the limit on government borrowing.

Details have not been worked out, and any plan would require approval from congressional Republicans, but the shift signifies a remarkable political evolution for Trump, who has long cheered weaponizing the debt ceiling, no matter the cost.

The debt ceiling has always been a useless fight. Congress authorizes spending levels in the budget and also authorizes its own credit limit. The problem, as any credit-card holder can tell you, isn’t the credit limit — it’s spending more than you receive in the first place. Authorizing that kind of spending in the budget process is the issue, not the debt ceiling that inevitably gets breached long after the budget process has concluded. The power of the purse is expressed in budget resolutions and appropriations, and approving massive deficits in budgets while then refusing to allow for the borrowing that it requires is hypocritical on its face. Separating the two creates phony and useless crises with real-world consequences, and has yet to ever result in significant or lasting concessions on spending.


The best way to deal with the debt ceiling is with a balanced-budget amendment. If Congress won’t produce one — and they won’t — then the states need to accelerate the Article V convention to impose it on them.

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