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‘I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling’: Trump’s awkward tweets

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During a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, President Trump struck a deal to provide aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt ceiling, and keep the government funded — with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Not only did Trump strike a deal with the leaders of a party he’s repeatedly decried as mere “obstructionists,” but in talking about the deal with reporters on Air Force One, the president didn’t even mention the names of Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

The deal, which funds the government through mid-December, was widely regarded as a huge victory for Democrats. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) tweeted that “[t]he Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad,” while House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) characterized it as giving Democrats “exactly what they wanted.”

In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer said “[b]oth sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us.” On Air Force One, Trump said he “had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer” and added, “[w]e agreed to a three-month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred — very important — always we’ll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it.”

McConnell was less enthused, telling reporters that “[t]he president can speak for himself, but his feeling was that we needed to come together to not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis.”

Trump’s decision to work with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached represents a sharp break from the rhetoric he was known for during the Obama years.

In 2011, Trump said that if he were president, he’d refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless he could strike a deal to “stop [the debt] right now.” In a tweet, he asserted “there is no revenue problem.”

Months later, Trump tweeted that Obama’s effort to raise the debt ceiling without draconian cuts to spending was leading to the “destruction of our country.”

When the country faced a debt ceiling crisis shortly after Obama’s reelection, Trump said Republicans “hold all the cards” and therefore could “get everything they want” if they played them correctly.

A month later, Trump suggested Republicans should use their leverage to “make the great deal now!”

But when Republicans instead opted to take the approach Trump is taking now and kicked the can down the road, Trump blasted them as “[t]he worst negotiators in history.”

He said leadership’s failure to take advantage of their leverage left him “embarrassed” to call himself a Republican.

Trump also opined that Republicans’ decision to “ignore the debt ceiling” signaled that leadership was ignoring the base.

Four months later, Trump urged the House GOP majority to “get its act together” and “[o]ut negotiate” Democrats on the debt ceiling. 

Years later, Trump deployed the same sort of rhetoric during his campaign. As ThinkProgress previously detailed, candidate Trump said “the debt limit must be used as a weapon to force spending cuts. Trump said he would be ‘very very strong on the debt limit’ and insisted on ‘a very big pound of flesh’ before agreeing to any increase.”

But President Trump signaled that his view on the importance of not defaulting on national debt had changed last spring. In March, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wrote House Speaker Ryan a letter asking him to “raise the federal debt limit at the first opportunity.” Mnuchin did not propose offsetting spending cuts.

Though news of the deal Trump struck with Democratic leaders is good news for the stability of the government and the international economy in the short-term, it means that Congress will now be tasked with raising the debt ceiling and trying to figure out a budget shortly before the traditional holiday recess, at a time when Republicans were already hoping to get a controversial corporate tax cut bill across the finish line.

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