Does Trump Really Want a Grand Bargain With Democrats?

After a devastating defeat on health care, it might be that Trump is ready to jettison the idea of working with the House Freedom Caucus.

Jonathan Swan is reporting that for his next act, the president might attempt a grand bargain with Democrats.

The Trump administration is looking at driving tax reform and infrastructure concurrently, according to a White House source with direct knowledge.

It’s a major strategic shift – infrastructure was likely going to be parked until next year – and is only possible because of last week’s healthcare debacle.

President Trump feels burned by the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus and is ready to deal with Democrats. Dangling infrastructure spending is an obvious way to buy the support of potentially dozens of Dems, meaning he wouldn’t have to bargain with the hardliners.

Mike Allen notes an interesting calculus taking shape for some in Trump’s circle.

Top officials at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tell me they don’t see how they can change the House Republican math that killed health reform.

In other words, some folks in the White House are beginning to figure out that what I call “the lunatic caucus” doesn’t know how to get to “yes” on much of anything.

That has led them to a bit of an “oops, maybe we made a mistake” conclusion.

Some Trump friends think he has made a huge mistake since the inauguration by antagonizing Dems rather than courting them. Because of his tweets and rants, they’re less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt than they were Jan. 20, and any ambitious Dem who tried to work with him would get fiercer blowback from the base.

Ya think? As recently as last Friday, Trump was blaming Democrats for the failure of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. Now, after all he said during the campaign and has done since the inauguration, they think Trump can flip the switch and get Democrats to work with him on tax cuts and infrastructure. As the women I grew up around in Texas would say, “Bless their hearts.”

Martin has been doing a great job of pointing out how difficult Trump has made it to garner any Democratic support for his agenda. It’s hard to imagine that happening right now.

But it might be worth thinking about what it would take to make cooperation possible. I’d suggest that it would require more than simply producing infrastructure and tax reform plans that incorporate liberal ideas. That’s because any attempt to help Trump involves going beyond specific legislation to re-stock his political capital—which is also worth some leverage. So I’d start out with a list like this that might open the door just a crack:

  1. Pull the Gorsuch nomination and replace him with Merrick Garland,
  2. End all attempts to repeal Obamacare,
  3. Nix the travel ban,
  4. Propose comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship,
  5. Support the Clean Power Plan,
  6. Build an infrastructure plan on the basics outlined in Obama’s American Jobs Act,
  7. Combine lower corporate tax rates with closing loopholes that allow large corporations to pay either nothing or very little in federal taxes.

Prior to the the obstructionist positioning of Republicans in the Obama era, none of those items were terribly partisan. Therefore, it’s an agenda that could actually get the ball rolling on a possible grand bargain. Otherwise, fuggetaboutit.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.