Trump reaches out to make more deals with Congressional Democrats

Trump with (from far right)  Pelosi, Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sept 6, 2017.
Trump with (from far right) Pelosi, Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sept 6, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump pursued his newfound alignment with congressional Democrats on Thursday (Sept 7) as he called the party’s leaders in hopes of striking more deals and even complied with a request to publicly reassure younger immigrants brought to the country illegally not to worry about imminent deportation.

A day after reaching a fiscal agreement with Democrats over the objections of his own Treasury secretary and party leaders, Trump called Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California to reinforce his willingness to keep working across party lines.

He was effusive about their consensus. “The press has been incredible,” he told Pelosi, according to a person briefed on the call.

Pelosi took the opportunity to ask Trump to send out a message on Twitter emphasising that the 800,000 immigrants enrolled in a program that he cancelled this week can keep their protection from deportation and work permits over the next six months as it phases out.

The president, who has called on Congress to pass legislation that would renew the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, agreed to do so.

“For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!” Trump wrote.

Trump told reporters after the calls that the deal may signal a new era of bipartisanship.

“I think we will have a different relationship than we’ve been watching over the last number of years. I hope so,” he said. “I think that’s a great thing for our country. And I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue. They want to see coming together to an extent.”

One area of possible agreement could be a proposal advanced by Schumer to eliminate the requirement that Congress vote from time to time to raise the debt ceiling altogether, a perennial point of division in Washington.

“It could be discussed,” Trump said. “There are a lot of good reasons to do that.” For their part, Democrats expressed cautious optimism on Thursday about Trump’s turnabout, saying they hoped it would open the door to a more cooperative political landscape, including on immigration.

But Schumer offered uncertainty as well. “Seeing is believing,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

Schumer, who has had little contact with Trump before now, said he raised the issue of cooperating on saving the DACA program through legislation known as the Dream Act and that Trump seemed amenable.

“We’ll see,” Schumer said. “I think it would be much better for the country and much better for Donald Trump if he was much more in the middle and bipartisan rather than siding with the hard right. I think he got a taste of it yesterday. We’ll see if it continues. I hope it does.”

As for the Republican leaders who felt blindsided by Trump, on Thursday they tried to smooth over the rift and attributed it to a desire by the president to forge unity as Hurricane Irma threatens Florida just days after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas and Louisiana.

"What the president didn’t want to do is have some partisan fight in the middle of the response to this,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said in a separate interview with The Times. “He wanted to make sure we had a bipartisan moment.”

Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, were caught off guard on Wednesday at a White House meeting when Trump accepted the Democrats’ proposal to finance the government and extend the nation’s debt ceiling for three months while financing relief efforts for Harvey.

Just before arriving at the White House for the meeting, Ryan had publicly rejected the Democratic plan, calling it “ridiculous and disgraceful.”  Trump has expressed aggravation with McConnell and Ryan over the failure to pass major legislation, especially a bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care program.

In addition to the fiscal deal, Trump also told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted to work with “Chuck and Nancy” to fashion a law that would preserve the Daca program, which was first enacted by Obama in 2012 through his executive power.

Trump cancelled it on Tuesday in response to conservative complaints that it exceeded a president’s authority, but by providing a six-month delay before the decision fully takes effect, he gave Congress a chance to pass legislation that would re-enact it on firmer legal footing.

Trump did not get the language of his Twitter post exactly as Pelosi had wanted. Still, the situation is somewhat more complicated than the president allowed. Those currently enrolled in the Daca program have until Oct 5 to renew their 2-year work permits if they expire on or before March 5. If they do not renew those permits by then, they could be subject to deportation as soon as Oct 6.

Aides to Trump suggested that the collaboration with Democrats might go beyond the momentary alignment.

“The president is committed to working across the aisle and doing what is needed to best serve the American people,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

As he reached out to Democrats again on Thursday morning, Trump also worked to keep the lines of communication open with Republicans. He called Ryan and McConnell and planned to host the House speaker for dinner at the White House on Thursday night.