Republican leaders are furious that Trump struck a deal with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, “rolling over” his congressional frenemies Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. The agreement for a three-month government funding bill should avert a government shutdown and avoid a debt default—it also gives Democrats even more leverage the next time negotiations come up.
Axios reports that “McConnell rather doubts the president has a strategy,” while “Ryan is furious.” Both were “blindsided.” That Trump also appears to have rolled his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin only makes the decision to cave to Democratic demands more perplexing to many pundits and infuriating to the raft of GOP sources who have grumbled and raged to reporters over the past twelve hours.
One way of looking at this deal is that Trump has few ideological convictions beyond a devotion to protectionism, rabid anti-immigration policies, and a refusal to repudiate the white supremacists in his base. He is fickle, changing on a daily—at times hourly—basis, depending on what he’s seen on television and what his insatiable and unpredictable ego demands. Perhaps Trump is just being Trump.
But even if he were not Trump, it’s hard to imagine this scenario ending differently. As the minority party, Democrats had tremendous leverage and they used it to get a deal that favors them, both now and in three months. (Some Democrats are complaining that Chuck and Nancy should have asked for more.) Republicans would have been incredibly damaged by a government shutdown, and so even though they control both houses of Congress they really had no leverage. Trump took what was on the table because there wasn’t a more favorable deal out there.
The fallout is just the latest evidence that there is no loyalty or love between Trump and congressional Republicans. Their eagerness to both admit to being cucked by the president and to blame him for cucking them shows us just how raw feelings are. But Republicans who are whining to the press about being “blindsided” are putting on a show. They surely knew that this was a negotiation where there was no good political outcome. They could either cave to Democrats now or they could cave later, when the political damage would be even greater. Right now they’re being cynical, putting all the blame for a deal they knew was inevitable on a president they despise.