Thiessen: Trump is ready to deal; are Democrats?

Thiessen: Trump is ready to deal; are Democrats?

November 29th, 2018 by Marc Thiessen in Opinion Free Press Commentary

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington on Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta

WASHINGTON — When Donald Trump first took office, many conservatives' greatest fear was that he would be too quick to cut deals with the Democrats. He had previously been a Democrat and had staked out heterodox positions on everything from spending to entitlement reform, the national debt, the minimum wage, trade and health care. During the 2016 campaign, Trump even endorsed universal health care, declaring, "This is an un-Republican thing for me to say I am going to take care of everybody [and] the government's gonna pay for it." Conservatives were aghast.

They need not have worried. Democrats showed little interest in negotiating bipartisan bills with President Trump. They preferred to be the "resistance." And their unrelenting opposition pushed Trump to the right. He knew that whatever he was going to get done, he would have to do it with Republican votes. So, he governed as a staunch conservative.

But that is not his place of natural equilibrium. In his heart, Trump is a dealmaker, not an ideologue. And now, he's making clear that he wants to cut deals with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

It was overshadowed by his confrontation with CNN's Jim Acosta, but during his post-election news conference, Trump made clear that he is willing — even eager — to buck House Republicans and work with Pelosi and the new Democratic majority. On health care, for example, Trump stunned Republicans when he said he would be willing to support a bipartisan bill that passes with Democratic votes. "We'll get the Democrats and we'll get the Republicans, or some of the Republicans," Trump declared. That's a remarkable statement. The president would sign a health-care bill that gets a majority of Democratic, but not Republican, votes.

Similarly, on taxes, Trump announced he was willing to revisit the terms of his signature legislative achievement — his tax-reform law — in exchange for a middle-class tax cut. Asked whether he would be willing to raise rates on corporations and the wealthy, Trump said, "I would absolutely pursue something even if it means some adjustment." That's a huge concession to the Democrats.

Indeed, Trump even said it was better that Democrats won control of the House because it frees him to negotiate. "If the Republicans won — and let's say we held on by two, or one, or three — it would've been very hard," Trump said, " because there will always be one, or two, or three people that, for a good reason or for a bad reason, or for grandstanding come over and say, you know, 'Look, we're not going to along with this.' " With Democrats in the majority, he said, "we have a much easier path, because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they are looking at, and we'll negotiate." Translation: Now I can tell the House Freedom Caucus to take a hike and compromise with Democrats instead.

The big question: Will House Democrats take him up on it? If they start firing shots at Trump, focusing on investigations and impeachment, he's going to fire back. But if they accept his outstretched hand, they will find he's willing to give Democrats a lot of things they want — even over GOP objections.

Trump hopes Pelosi becomes House speaker, because he thinks Pelosi will be less interested in impeachment and more interested in deals. "She deserves it," he said at his news conference, adding, "If she has a problem, I think I would be able to very easily supply her the necessary votes" to become speaker. He knows Pelosi will serve for only a few years and wants to secure a legacy. She wants to pass an infrastructure bill, fix and permanently secure Obamacare, and modify his tax cuts. And he seems willing to work with her to do all that. If anything, Pelosi's challenge will be to control her own ideologues who want to use their newfound power to destroy Trump, not work with him.

But if Democrats are willing to make concessions, such as funding the border wall, they will find that Trump is willing to buck conservative orthodoxy and make major concessions to them. Indeed, if they play their cards right, they can rack up wins on everything from health care and taxes to infrastructure and even immigration.

But to do that, Democrats have to decide: Are they now a governing majority? Or are they a resistance? Because they can't be both.

The Washington Post Writers Group

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315