Democratic congressional leaders announced Wednesday that they had reached a deal with President Trump in an Oval Office meeting to pass hurricane relief funding this week, along with measures to push off pressing fiscal deadlines to December — over the apparent objections of Republican leaders.
“In the meeting, the President and Congressional leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a continuing resolution both to December 15, all together,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. “Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us.”
The agreement includes bundling relief for Hurricane Harvey with a three-month continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through Dec. 15, in addition to a three-month fix to raise the debt limit to be passed this week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will be adding those measures to the hurricane relief measure and will support it on the floor, but in brief remarks to reporters on Wednesday afternoon was clear this was a deal between Democratic leaders and the president.
“The president agreed with Sen. Schumer and Congresswoman Pelosi to do a three month C.R. and a debt ceiling into December,” McConnell said. “That’s what I will be offering.”
An aide briefed on the meeting said that Republican leaders originally proposed an 18-month hike to the debt ceiling, which would avoid any further confrontations on it past the 2018 midterms, then offered a six-month extension before the president agreed to the Democrats’ desired three-month extension.
And another source briefed on the meeting told NPR’s Susan Davis that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had also advocated for a longer debt ceiling hike. However, President Trump then jumped behind the three-month extensions coupled with the funding for Harvey relief.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., makes a point to President Trump in the Oval Office after their White House meeting on Wednesday.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
It’s a major development given the pressing list of tasks Congress had to take on over the next month, and the fact that Trump sided with Democrats’ desires over those of Republicans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan had criticized the proposal from Pelosi and Schumer on a three-month debt ceiling hike earlier on Wednesday as “playing politics” with the debt ceiling.
McConnell later suggested that Trump had pushed for the deal because “his feeling was that we needed to come together, to not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis,” with Harvey having devastated coastal Texas and Hurricane Irma threatening the Caribbean and Florida.
Trump described the meeting to reporters on Air Force One: “We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We 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.” Those comments came while the president was en route to a tax reform event in North Dakota, and he did not mention his own party’s congressional leaders.
Trump also hinted there could be a deal reached to protect so-called “DREAMers,” after his administration announced the end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which puts in limbo the fate of 800,000 young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children and now could face the possibility of deportation.
“We discussed that also today, and Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I,” Trump said. “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.”
Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement that “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.”
During the Obama administration, Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would have provided protections to immigrants who came here illegally as children.