The Trump White House on Friday continued to pivot away from a legislative strategy based almost exclusively on Republicans, seemingly handing more leverage to congressional Democrats by the day.
Trump’s deal earlier this week with House and Senate Democratic leaders was not a one-off, and he intends to continue trying to pass bipartisan legislation, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The approach, which caught members of his own party off guard and added fuel to ongoing intra-party tensions, came after the president spent his first seven months relying on Republicans to pass major bills.
That approach failed Trump when a GOP-crafted measure that would have partially repealed and replaced Barack Obama’s 2010 health law failed to gain the necessary number of Republican votes in the Senate.
The president will work with any members — from either party — who "want to move the ball forward," she said.
After Trump — and his top spokespersons — for months slammed Democrats and blamed them for stalling his agenda, Sanders on Friday told reporters the American people expect him to work across the aisle.
“That's one reason they voted for him,” she said.
At times during the 2016 campaign, Trump did boast about his years-long relationship with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the Democratic leaders with which he struck a three-month debt ceiling and three-month government spending bill that was attached to a Hurricane Harvey relief bill the House sent him earlier Friday.
A tax bill is one of the issues on which the president already is openly courting Democratic lawmakers. Sanders brought that up when asked what other issues could the GOP president deal with the opposition party.
While Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said a tax bill might slip into next year — given the complexity of writing something that can garner 60 votes — the president wants to move faster.
The White House wants a tax overhaul bill on the president’s desk “as soon as possible,” Sanders said when asked if Trump would be fine with that slipping into 2018.
“If we could get that done tomorrow, I think everyone would be happy with that,” Trump’s top spokeswoman said. “We want to make sure we get it done right. That’s important.”
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted some instructions for his own party, urging Republican lawmakers to send him a tax overhaul bill “ASAP.”
Republicans must start the Tax Reform/Tax Cut legislation ASAP. Don't wait until the end of September. Needed now more than ever. Hurry!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
“I love the president’s passion on this. He’s all in on it,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said of the president’s tweet.
Brady, however, would not commit to such a timeline.
“We’re working with his team and Senate tax writers to deliver the biggest, boldest, transformation tax reform we can, as soon as we can,” he said.
Another likely will be additional hurricane relief spending bills, especially with another category five superstorm, Hurricane Irma, heading for Florida after Harvey caused massive flooding in Texas and Louisiana.
“What I do worry about are the financial resources,” White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said Friday. “We’re going to have to go back [to Congress], I’m sure, for additional resources.”
Bossert said the administration would likely again ask for emergency monies in “appropriate small tranches” ahead of a larger relief package down the road.
Bossert did not specify just how much more might be needed after adding in any post-Irma needs.
Trump administration officials have waived restrictions in federal law to allow non-American flagged ships to deliver refined gasoline to Florida so people can gas up their cars and get out of Irma's path — or generators if they plan to ride it out, Bossert said. He said he doubts conditions will allow much more gas to reach filling stations in the state with the storm closing in.