- Win McNamee/Getty Images
Over the past seven days, it seems as if President Donald Trump can’t get enough of bipartisanship.
Since he sided with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on a deal to tack on a three-month suspension of the federal debt ceiling – and a continuing resolution to fund the government through early December – to a bill that would also include money for Hurricane Harvey relief, Trump has been repeating the “b” word over and over while making more overtures to Democrats than he had throughout his young presidency.
Within the past 24 hours, Trump has hosted a dinner with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana; met with a bipartisan group of congressmen that included Democrats Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Tom Suozzi of New York, and Peter Welch of Vermont; and invited both Schumer and Pelosi back to the White House for a Wednesday-night dinner.
After being asked by a reporter on Wednesday what his message is for conservatives who are “skeptical of this new approach with Democrats,” Trump suggested that some of the “greatest legislation in history” was passed in a bipartisan manner.
“Well, I’m conservative and, I will tell you, I’m not skeptical,” Trump said. “And I think that if we can do things in a bipartisan manner, that will be great. Now, it might not work out, in which case, we’ll try and do them without. But I think if we can do, in a bipartisan manner – if you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that’s why we’re going to give it a shot.”
The president, eager to pass his big-ticket agenda items such as tax reform and an infrastructure package, seems to have reacted well to positive news coverage that came out of his deal with Schumer and Pelosi last week, and is now attempting to carry over any momentum built by the deal. In the deal’s immediate aftermath, Trump spoke in glowing terms about both it and his partners in the agreement, “Chuck” and “Nancy.” He told reporters he thought “you are going to see a much stronger coming together” and that the deal signaled more bipartisan action on the horizon.
“I think we will have a different relationship than we’ve been watching over the last number of years,” Trump said. “I hope so. I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue.”
Now just a week after Trump’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi – after going months without any sort of meeting – Trump already invited both of them back to the White House to follow up on last week’s meeting, as a source familiar with the meeting described it to Business Insider. That source added that Schumer and Pelosi plan to push Trump on codifying protections for some immigrants living in the country illegally and stabilizing healthcare markets.
“As we’ve said many times before, we’ve got a very ambitious legislative agenda for this fall, and the president wants to work with anybody that wants to move America forward,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Wednesday’s press briefing. “And if they’re willing to do that – sit down, be part of that conversation on both tax cuts and tax reform, responsible immigration reform – then the President certainly welcomes those conversations.”
Asked whether the president views Schumer and Pelosi as “equal allies” for accomplishing his goals, on par with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sanders confirmed that “the president is a Republican.”
“And certainly I think ideologically that’s a much cleaner matchup,” she said. “But again, if these people and these individuals, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, want to come together to push the president’s agenda and the agenda that clearly the American people want to see, or they wouldn’t have elected Donald Trump, then we’re certainly happy to have that conversation and move that ball forward.”
Speaking to reporters at his meeting with representatives from both parties Wednesday, Trump said both sides are “more and more … trying to work things out together.”
“That’s a positive thing, and it’s good for the Republicans and good for the Democrats,” he said. “And this group knows that very well. Whether we can do the incredible things that we’re doing – and working in a bipartisan fashion, obviously, would be a positive.”
“I think it’s really – the whole concept of what we’re trying to do is very, very important,” he continued. “Inspired by the example of our own citizens, we should be able to come together to make government work for the people – that’s why I was elected, that’s why I ran – and to provide jobs and opportunities to millions of struggling families. This includes tax reform that is pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-family, and pro-American. It’s very simple. It’s all pro-American.”
Switching to discussing tax reform, Trump called for making the tax code “simple and fair” in addition to providing a significant cut, later telling reporters that “the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” something Democrats are insisting on in order to come to the table and deal on tax legislation.
“I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are – pretty much where they are,” he said. “If we can do that, we’d like it. If they have to go higher, they’ll go higher, frankly. We’re looking at the middle class and we’re looking at jobs.”
He also called for an infrastructure package as “another bipartisan project that is urgently needed” and brought up DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order that Trump announced last week he would end in six months – a subject Schumer and Pelosi will push at their Wednesday dinner.
Trump said “we’ll probably also be talking about DACA” at his meeting with bipartisan representatives “because we don’t want to forget DACA.”
“And it’s already been a week and a half, and people don’t talk about it as much,” he said. “We want to see if we can do something with regard to immigration, with regard to the 800,000 people that are now young people. They’re not children anymore. They were children, now they’re young people. But we want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems.”
Suggesting that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are “little,” Trump called for putting those differences “aside.”
“When we set aside our differences – and it’s amazing how sometimes how little our differences are – we put our country and we put the citizens of our country first,” Trump said. “And that’s what this is all about.”