Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer Are Besties: The Case Against Bad Bipartisanship

The president and congressional Democrats just worked together on a bad debt ceiling and budget deal.


J. Scott Applewhite/SIPA/Newscom

This morning the House voted to pass a package that granted $15 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid, raised the debt ceiling, and funded the federal government for the next three months. It was a blow to fiscal restraint and hurls the can down the freeway yet again on important long-term questions about borrowing and spending. The deal was the product of an unlikely collaboration between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), Rep. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), and President Donald Trump. The vote was 316-90.

On Wednesday, in a speech at a refinery in North Dakota, Trump has this to say about the meetings where the deal was hammered out:

I had a great bipartisan meeting with Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress, and I'm committed to working with both parties to deliver for our wonderful, wonderful citizens. It's about time. We had a great meeting with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the whole Republican leadership group. And I'll tell you what, we walked out of there—Mitch and Paul, and everybody, Kevin—and we walked out and everybody was happy. Not too happy—because you can never be too happy—but they were happy enough.

There's a misconception that bipartisanship is a good in and of itself—that hands joined across the aisle are a sign that better natures have prevailed, that common sense policy is being implemented, or that petty grievances have been set aside.

That's virtually never true and this week's bizarre new BFFs are a perfect illustration of why.

Much of the motivation for this particular deal seems to have been spite, not harmony: Trump's desire to root the troublesome remnants of fiscal conservatism on the Hill—the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus types who still hold a bit of Speaker Paul Ryan's heart and attention. Trump's comments notwithstanding Ryan (R–Wisc.) and other GOP congressional leaders were unceremoniously cut out of the negotiations, after offering a plan that made at least some nod to fiscal discipline, however small.

What's worse: To the extent that today's deal was driven by a common understanding between parties, it's a wrongheaded, economically illiterate populist one—the belief that ever-increasing debt-funded spending on both a permanent and emergency basis can solve America's fiscal and economic problems.

This everybody-gets-everything strategy for dealing with partisan conflict is common, and appears all levels of government. You get money for your stuff, I get money for my stuff, and we'll worry about where the money is coming from later. This is just as true in city council meetings where bike paths are exchanged for zoning exceptions, as it is on Capitol Hill.

Listen, good bipartisanship is good. I like it as much as the next guy when politicians work together to do things I like. But the arc of bipartisanship is long and it bends toward more spending. As I've said before: If everyone on the Hill is happy, you probably shouldn't be. This goes double if everyone on the Hill except the people to committed to fiscal discipline are happy.

Perhaps people of both major parties can come together and agree on this point: There's something deeply unnatural about the idea of Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer getting along, and it's not going to end well.

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    1. Yeah, here’s Reason: Trump needs to be more like the Democrats!
      Trump compromises with Democrats: Bad move, Trump!

      1. You have no idea what you’ve just done CE.

      2. I love this comment CE. Fair and reasonable representation of reality. Seriously, I’m so glad you posted this. If some democrats are critical of cops, is Trump allowed to like that or no? Asking for a friend.

    2. It has been days and Dajjal hasn’t been banned – what is going on?

  2. “Bipartisanship” is just a nice word for when two muggers wait until AFTER they’ve got your wallet to fight over it.

  3. Glad to see Trump’s commitment to financial insolvency. He is truly acting presidential.

    1. This is a guy whose signature move is flying away in a helicopter while his most recent enterprise files for bankruptcy. Why would he change that just because his latest deal is America?

      1. I never doubted him a moment. Particularly since he’s traditionally been a New York Democrat.

        1. Democratic primary voters would never have nominated him. Stop blaming Democrats for things that are by definition not their fault. We call that derangement syndrome.

        2. He’s not a New York Democrat.

          The left hates Trump. The RINOs hate Trump. Trump’s a Republican.

          Furthermore, President always get blamed for budget showdowns even though the House is in charge of the purse. This was Trump’s way to weather (pun intended) Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Jose and push a budget fight months out. RINOs in Congress have no balls to handle repealing ObamaCare, tax reform and budget cuts when 3 yuge storms hit the USA.

          1. Trump rolls over yet again for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, but it’s everyone else that’s a RINO?

          2. Do you see that smile on Nancy’s face? Yep…. a real Republican.

            The guy was a Democrat for over 40 years. Why is that ignored by almost EVERYONE?

            Let’s face it, here were 2 democrats on the Presidential ballot last election. It was a miracle for democrats. They get to fire up their base and still get to act like victims while in reality have a sitting Democrat as President.

          3. It’s always been Republicans who get blamed for the federal shutdowns, whether they’re in the White House or Congress. It’s control of the news media that’s decisive.

  4. I think this is a smart move by Trump, actually. With 2 hurricanes to pay for (in 2 red states) now is not a good time politically for a big budget showdown with the Dems. Kick the can down the road and buy some time for tax reform. It’s not like the debt ceiling has ever been a ceiling in any meaningful way anyway.

    1. There’s always a reason to kick the can down the road. Nice one, advocating for that kind of behavior.

      1. why should the feds pay for it at all?

  5. The vote was 319 to 90. Could have gone either way, truly, like Super Bowl XX.

  6. “But the arc of bipartisanship is long and it bends toward more spending. As I’ve said before: If everyone on the Hill is happy, you probably shouldn’t be. This goes double if everyone on the Hill except the people to committed to fiscal discipline are happy.”

    Good one.

  7. This is unfortunate – a break in the ranks of the #Resist movement as Democrats (some of them) decide they’ll be open to cutting deals with Trump.

    As a former New York City Democrat who’s used to cutting deals with Democrats, this is great for Trump but not for everyone else.

    The country would be better off if all the Democrats are too busy #Resisting to dare compromise with Donald J. Satan. That would force Trump to work with Republicans, even (gasp!) conservative Republicans.

    I suppose that dream is receding now.

    1. It was a weird election.

      The “war-mongering” neocon ran as a Democrat.
      The “populist Democrat” ran as a Republican.
      And, 2 “squishy” Repubs ran as Libertarians.

  8. There’s something deeply unnatural about the idea of Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer getting along, and it’s not going to end well.

    Fun fact: In that group, Pelosi had the third-largest breasts.

  9. “What’s worse: To the extent that today’s deal was driven by a common understanding between parties, it’s a wrongheaded, economically illiterate populist one?the belief that ever-increasing debt-funded spending on both a permanent and emergency basis can solve America’s fiscal and economic problems.”

    Note: Paul Krugman does NOT endorse this message.

  10. The debt ceiling should be abolished, obviously, and the reason Trump partnered with Democrats is because Republicans are a fucking mess who have no ideas.

    The only way the debt ceiling serves any purpose is as a weapon to hold the entire economy hostage. But Republicans did that and decided that it was a bad look for them (holding the global economy hostage over petty ideological concerns), so they’re not interested in doing it again for the most part.

    So either we keep the debt ceiling and govern by holding a gun to the country’s head, or we eliminate it and be grownups about debt policy using the normal legislative process. Arguing for keeping it is like saying we need to keep the electoral college because a few retards in Wisconsin really are the ones we should entrust with picking the president what with the bangup job they’ve done so far.

    1. So do you think that Wisconsin should have more frequently voted for Republicans or something? You’re hating on their history, but before 2016 you have to go back to 1984 to have them vote Republican.

      1. Forget Wisconsin, the point is defending something that is indefensible, just because it’s there. Does the debt ceiling actually do anything to mitigate debt increases?

        1. It causes the corrupt politicians to pause and that is good enough reason to keep it.

    2. The debt ceiling really only impacts how much more Washington politicians can spend the USA into the poor house.

      The economy is just fine every time Washington has a budget impasse and shuts down.

      The only people who are scared about government shutting down are people who do not want government to spend less. Democrats and lefties in general, bureaucrats, and of course politicians.

      1. Government shutting down harms the economy, makes the US an even bigger embarrassment than it already is, and normalizes the act of threatening the country with insolvency in order to get what you want in Congress.

        Surely not the method of government approved by even the guys around here.

    3. It was funny watching the Democrats act all surprised that they lost WI. They’ve been bashing white people for the last 10 years. I wonder how long it’s going to take a state full of White people to get upset about that.

  11. “Trump Strikes ‘Deal’ With DEMOCRATS on Raising Debt Ceiling”
    —Hummmm, Deal with a HEAD CLOWN and an Alzheimer Mental Vegetable –or deal with a pair of BACK-STABBING, incompetent, screw-up RINOS ????

    I think Trump made the right choice !!!!’

    1. It’s amazing the things Trump can do and his fanboys wills still view his opponents as the RINOs. The guy literally just cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer giving them what they wanted on the debt ceiling, and he’s not a RINO? If Jeb Bush had done this, how would you react?

  12. It doesn’t matter which party comes up with a good idea, the other one will oppose it. It’s only when one party comes up with a really bad idea that both parties agree.

    For example when the Republicans came up with a replacing Social Security with a Chilean/Australian plan of individual retirement accounts with Social Security remaining as a means tested income supplement until current beneficiaries had died off, something that was actually feasible in the 1980s when it was first proposed but far tougher in the aughts when Dubya tried it and wimped out, the Democrats and their greatest generation* supporters fought it and killed any notion of it happening. Likewise when the Democrats proposed a meaningful and just immigration policy the GOP fought it in spite of the fact that it was not much different that what their historical position had been.

    Like I have always said, you dump a bunch of DemoCRAP into the RepubliCAN and stir it up and what you get is a mess of bipartisanSHIT. And that is pretty much what we got through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

    1. *the biggest, bar none group of subsidy sucking whiners that ever existed in American history. Sure the men kicked Hitler’s and Tojo’s ass and the women kept supplies flowing, which in and of itself is a huge accomplishment but that doesn’t justify the huge level of debt they left us with after the 1980s. It might be that simply because of demographics the Boomers will suck the most out of the national economy but the “greatest generation” benefited the most as individuals from the residue of New Deal programs like Social Security and Medicare. and let us not forget it was also the “greatest generation” that taught their offsprin, the Boomers that Social Security and Medicare were “their right”.

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