President Trump has decided to work with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi because he’s concluded that otherwise he won’t be able to get things done. This begs the question, which is whether the things he can get done with Chuck and Nancy are worth doing.
President Obama didn’t work with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for the sake of getting things done. But Obama is a principled leftist. Trump is neither principled nor particularly conservative.
There’s also the question of whether getting the requisite Democratic support in the Senate necessitates working with Schumer. In the House, it does not require working with Pelosi as long as Trump has the support of the Freedom Caucus, which he did on Obamacare repeal.
The normal way to muster the requisite Democratic support in the Senate is to pick off the least leftist Dems in the chamber, not to win over the leftist Minority Leader. In Trump’s case, this approach might seem particularly doable given the large number of Senate Democrats running for reelection next year in states Trump carried.
However, Trump may have concluded that picking off the Joe Manchins, Joe Donnellys, and Heidi Heitkamps won’t work. If so, he may be right. First, there may not be enough of them. Second, the combination of party discipline and the prospect of being “primaried” may be enough for Schumer to keep even these Democrats in line.
Trump may also like working with Schumer — fellow New Yorker and fellow jerk. Maybe it’s that simple.
But if Trump is going to work through Schumer, rather than trying to pick of stray Dems like Heitkamp, then why is he embracing Heitkamp, thereby improving her reelection prospects? With Schumer on board, Heitkamp becomes irrelevant when it comes to passing a given piece of legislation.
Yet, as the Washington Post notes, at a recent event in North Dakota, Trump invited Heitkamp onstage and praised her as a “good woman.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee was not amused. Nor should it have been.
If Trump wants to get anything even vaguely conservative done, he should be doing all he can to help defeat Democratic Senate candidates in 2018. Surely he remembers that all but three GOP Senators stood with him on the Obamacare repeal vote. No Democrat did. Not even Heidi Heitkamp.
Trump may figure that staying on the good side of Heitkamp and the few Senate Dems like her will give him greater leverage in striking deals with Schumer. The less confidence Schumer has in his ability to hold his caucus together, the more concessions he may be inclined to make.
As already noted, however, Schumer (1) can lose a few Dems and still block legislation and (2) can maintain discipline through tradition methods, plus the prospect of primary challenges to anyone who breaks ranks.
According to the Post, congressional Republicans are reeling from Trump’s sudden overtures to the Democrats. They are said to be “laboring, sometimes awkwardly, to project leverage.”
I’m not sure how they will be able to project it. Trump may be ineffective when it comes to thwarting Democrats, China, Iran, and North Korea. But when it comes to screwing Republicans, he’s a star.
Some Republican members of Congress may be thinking how much better things would be if Mike Pence were president. Ann Coulter is.
It’s an idle thought right now. But if the Democrats capture the House and Robert Mueller makes certain findings, the thought may take on relevance. In this scenario, Senate Republicans will project plenty of leverage. Unless you believe that Trump’s pals Chuck and Nancy will stand up to their howling base and protect Trump from impeachment and removal.