Democratic leaders in Congress announced that they made a deal with President Donald Trump to pass relief aid for Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt ceiling, and pass a three-month bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal in a joint press release after a meeting at the White House Wednesday, which also included House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us," Schumer and Pelosi said in their statement.
The deal would keep the government from defaulting on its debt or shutting down until Dec. 15, when Congress would have to act again. "The nation can breathe a sigh of relief. We've avoided default and we've avoided a government shutdown, both of which would cause damage far into the future," Schumer told reporters back at the Capitol later Wednesday.
Whether the deal moves forward is up to Ryan and McConnell, who control both chambers of Congress. Hours before the White House meeting, Ryan called a three-month extension of the debt ceiling a "ridiculous" and "unworkable" idea. But McConnell told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he would support the deal, even as other Republicans have expressed deep frustrations with an agreement that would take away a lot of their leverage this fall.
“It’s completely ridiculous. It’s like they’re trying to lose," a senior Senate GOP aide said of the deal.
Asked about the agreement Sen. Orrin Hatch said: "Let's just say I'm not supremely happy right now."
A source briefed on the meeting said that Republican leaders were surprised that Trump sided with Democrats on a shorter extension of the debt ceiling.
"McConnell, Ryan, McCarthy, and the President's own Treasury Secretary, [Steven] Mnuchin all advocated for a longer debt limit extension than what Schumer and Pelosi called for. Basically everyone with an R behind their name," the source said. "There was an expected standstill in the meeting on this point and the congressional leaders were basically going to agree to disagree, and then unexpectedly the president said basically let's just all agree and do three and three. Three-month CR and three-month debt limit with Harvey."
Democrats appeared to be surprised by Trump's move as well. "It's fucking wild," one Senate Democratic aide said of the agreement.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said that Trump made the agreement in order to "clear the decks" for Republicans to tackle tax reform, pushing major battles back from the end of this month to December.
McConnell told reporters Wednesday he would offer the three-month debt ceiling and federal funding package as an amendment to the Harvey funding bill “based on the president’s decision and then we'll try to get 60 votes and move forward.” Hurricane Harvey relief funding has already passed the House, which voted overwhelmingly for the aid package earlier Wednesday, but that bill still needs to go through the Senate.
Asked if he was surprised that Trump sided with Democrats, McConnell said: “The 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, and that was the rationale.”
On board Air Force One on his way to North Dakota Wednesday afternoon, Trump told reporters that he had "a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer," confirming the three-month deal, but making no mention of McConnell or Ryan. "We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good. We had a very, very cordial and professional meeting," Trump said.
A source close to the administration called the deal "very Trumpian" and speculated it was "a warning shot to Republicans that, 'I don't need you for everything.'"
Republicans coming out of a Senate lunch meeting tried to downplay Trump's deal. Asked if Democrats got exactly what they wanted, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said: "For people who want to keep score, maybe that's true." But Tillis added that at a time with looming national disasters, Americans need more certainty. "In that context, I don't think it was a loss."
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, the number two Republican in leadership, said Wednesday that the deal "makes sense" with the urgent need for hurricane relief funding, particularly in his state of Texas.
"So this basically kicks the can down the road for three months," Cornyn said. "But it does give us time to make the case for tax reform and to do other important things."
Wednesday's meeting at the White House came just a day after the Trump administration announced that they will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants who were brought to the US as children from deportation.
Pelosi and Schumer, who held a joint press conference before the White House meeting decrying Trump's decision, did not say whether they had come to an agreement with the president on DACA. Democrats and a handful of Republican members of Congress have pushed to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide protections for those immigrants, but it is unclear whether Trump supports that legislation on its own.
"As Democratic leaders, we also made it clear that we strongly believe the DREAM Act must come to the floor and pass as soon as possible and we will not rest until we get this done," the two Democrats said Wednesday.
Trump told reporters after the meeting that he is confident that Congress will get something done, saying that he'd like to "see a permanent deal" to protect DREAMers that includes border security funding as well.
"Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I. And I said if we can get something to happen, we’re going to sign it and we’re going to make a lot of happy people," Trump said.
Alexis Levinson, Adrian Carrasquillo, Tarini Parti, and Ema O'Connor contributed to this story.
Lissandra Villa is a politics reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Lissandra Villa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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