- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 10, 2017

President Trump’s breathtaking deal struck with Democratic leaders to fund the government through early December, increase government borrowing and speed relief money to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma has upended the narrative in Washington.

His own party was left reeling, while Democrats face a new world where they have been enticed to work with the man they spent the past eight months vowing to resist, labeled a racist and introduced articles of impeachment against.

The White House says it expects more such deals going forward, including a possible agreement on immigration. Mr. Trump said he is eager to legalize Dreamers and is working with “Chuck and Nancy” — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“This is where the Trump presidency begins,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican Party strategist. “We’re going to see this again on health care, on tax reform, on infrastructure, on anything you want to name. Trump is now going to go to Schumer.”

The deal approved more than $15 billion to fund emergency aid at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Each agency plays a role in post-disaster assistance.

But Mr. Trump shocked Republicans by also agreeing to fund the government into December and to allow the government to borrow as much as needed in the meantime. Republican leaders were seeking a longer-term debt hike, but the president undercut them, saying he wanted to get a deal done and clear the decks at a time of national crisis.

Despite intense grumbling from Republicans, most of them signed on. The bill built momentum in a way that would have seemed unthinkable just days earlier, when Democrats returned to Washington from a lengthy summer vacation vowing to resist the president at every turn.

On Wednesday morning, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer held a press conference to blast Mr. Trump as “cowardly” and “brainless” for his decision to phase out the legally iffy Obama-era deportation amnesty for Dreamers.

About the same time, the House was approving a narrow Hurricane Harvey relief package that included $7.85 billion for FEMA and the small-business loans.

Then came the fateful White House meeting where Mr. Trump cut the deal with Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer.

Senators quickly doubled the disaster relief money, put the bill on the floor Thursday and approved it by a vote of 80-17 after truncated debate. The House sped up its own schedule Friday and approved the bill by a vote of 316-90 after less than an hour of debate.

“We’re here today to tell those folks in Florida, those folks in Texas and those who face disasters all over this country that this Congress has your back,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican who represents coastal Texas.

FEMA had said it would run out of aid without an infusion of cash in its disaster relief fund, which doles out payments for hotel rooms for displaced people or for emergency home repairs or immediate health needs.

Officials said money is being distributed faster than usual because of the size of the disaster and because of online tools that make registering for aid quick and easy.

All of the newly approved funding will have to be borrowed, deepening the national debt.

Just ahead of the vote, House Republicans huddled with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to vent frustrations with the way the process unfolded.

Lawmakers emerged from the meeting still simmering — particularly after Mr. Mnuchin made an appeal to Republicans to “vote for the debt ceiling for me.”

“That did not go over well with the room at all,” said Rep. Mark Walker, North Carolina Republican. “There was some hissing, and I don’t know if there was booing — but there were some groans. I’ll put it that way.”

Rep. Dave Brat, Virginia Republican, said Mr. Mnuchin’s talk was “intellectually insulting.”

“It’s not about raising the debt limit. Everybody [was] going to do that. It’s not about Harvey — everybody was going to do that,” Mr. Brat said. “The question is how in the world did we get trapped into linking a clean debt ceiling increase over the long run with Harvey funding, right? To me, that’s very cynical. I don’t like it.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said Mr. Schumer is now the pivot after he proved he could deliver his caucus’s votes while Republican leaders have been unable to do so.

That makes him an attractive negotiating partner, analysts said.

Mrs. Pelosi, who was in the meetings where the deal was struck, said Mr. Schumer was able to “speak New York” to the president, paving the way for the agreement. Mr. Trump was reportedly delighted by the positive press.

Future deals could center on legalizing illegal immigrants, fixing Obamacare and injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into American infrastructure.

The deal last week also seems to signal a potential agreement in December, when Congress will once again be asked to stave off a government shutdown by passing a round of spending bills.

The administration signaled that Mr. Trump wants a massive infusion for the Pentagon. Democrats are likely to agree as long as they get more money for domestic programs. That would break Mr. Trump’s budget and do serious damage to the deficit, but it would pave a path for bipartisanship.

“He’s going to get a bigger chunk of the Republican agenda done this way than he would have from Republicans,” Mr. McKenna said. “Does it mean you have to swallow some stuff you’d rather not swallow? Yeah, But does it mean you get your judges? Yeah. Do you get a better health care system? Yeah. Do you get a better tax system? It can’t be worse.”

Liberal activists who spent the summer vowing to “resist” Mr. Trump at every turn didn’t seem fazed by the new spirit of cooperation. They went ahead with protests and rallies against the president, particularly over his decisions to curtail transgender people in the military and to put Dreamers back into play in the immigration debate.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are pressing Mr. Trump to make last week’s deal a one-off.

“I think this is a unique situation, not what’s going to happen in the future,” Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “What’s going to happen in the future, I think with this president and certainly with us conservatives in the House, we are solely and totally focused on what the American people elected us to do.”

He also shot down reports that he and other conservatives are looking to oust House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

Tom Howell Jr. and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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