It’s been a good couple of weeks for Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Last week, they steamrolled Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, getting Trump to side with them on a three-month deal to raise the debt ceiling. They got everything they could have hoped for: hurricane relief, government funding, and a very short window until the next round of negotiations. When it comes time to raise the ceiling again in December, they’ll have even more leverage and the midterm elections will be less than a year away.
Then, last night they released a statement claiming to have reached the framework for a deal that would protect Dreamers from being deported in exchange for more funding for border security (but not the wall). While the DACA deal is far from done, “Chuck and Nancy,” as Trump affectionately calls them, have seemingly struck two deals with little downside for Democrats in two weeks.
So it’s no surprise that Schumer is feeling good. But he might be feeling a bit too good. In a hot mic recording picked up on Thursday, you could hear the giddiness in his voice as he told a colleague, “He likes us. He likes me, anyway,”
“Look, what we said is exactly accurate,” he said, referring to the statement he released with Pelosi on the DACA deal. “Here’s what I told him: I said, ‘Mr. President, you’re much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step left. If you have to step just in one direction, you’re boxed.’ He gets that.” Schumer added, “Oh, it’s going to work out. And it’ll make us more productive too.”
Schumer may have twice pulled a rabbit out of a hat, but here he’s getting cocky. With both the debt ceiling and DACA, Democrats had maximum leverage: Republicans might have majorities in both houses of Congress but Trump, McConnell, and Ryan needed Democrats on both issues, given the hardliners on the Republican side. In both cases, Trump and Republicans would shoulder nearly all the blame if things went wrong. Trump has been praised for working with Democrats, but he really had no other choice. And DACA, crucially, is far from a done deal—the response from Trump’s base, combined with Schumer’s hubris, could give Trump cold feet.
It won’t always be this easy, in other words. In fact, it rarely will be. Just because Schumer and Pelosi cut two one-time deals with Trump doesn’t mean that they’re going to fleece Trump again anytime soon.