The Schumer op­tion is a dead end

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is looking for a con­gres­sional leader he likes. Mitch Mc­Connell has been found want­ing, so now the pres­i­dent is flirt­ing with Chuck Schumer.

Trump sided with Schumer and Nancy Pelosi two weeks ago on an agree­ment to ex­tend the debt ceil­ing for three months. The Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in Congress wanted a longer ex­ten­sion, wor­ried that a short-term mea­sure would give Democrats more lever­age when it ex­pires at the end of the year. The agree­ment — plus Trump’s war m words about “Chuck and Nancy” and his re por ted de­light over the pos­i­tive press cov­er­age of the deal — has driven spec­u­la­tion that Trump will tur n to the Democrats in a bi­par­ti­san “pivot.”

If a part­ner­ship with Schumer is in­deed Trump’s plan for a new phase in his pres­i­dency, he should think again.

It makes sense that Trump is tempted. His frus­tra­tion with con­gres­sional lead­er­ship is, from his per­spec­tive, un­der­stand­able. Th­ese are the pros who told him when he showed up in Wash­ing- ton that they had a plan and that he needn’t worry. So far, there’s noth­ing to show for it.

Trump feels some free­dom to ma­neu­ver. He has a fir mer grasp on Repub­li­can vot­ers than any­one in Congress. If Repub­li­cans didn’t hate their own lead­ers, Trump never would have won the nom­i­na­tion or be­come pres­i­dent in the first place.

Per­sonal affin­ity surely plays a role. Trump speaks the lan­guage of his fel­low outer-bor­ough New Yorker Schumer more than Paul Ryan, the earnest pol­icy wonk, or Mitch Mc­Connell, the mas­terly tac­ti­cian.

Fi­nally, Trump might be­lieve that he can boost his sag­ging poll num­bers by re­mind­ing people he’s a non­ide­o­log­i­cal deal-maker and by get­ting things — any­thing — done.

A Schumer al­liance is, nonethe­less, a siren song. The debt deal wasn’t re­ally a deal. It was a case where Trump could see some ad­van­tages — se­cur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey fund­ing, gain­ing some breath­ing space for tax re­form — by sim­ply giv­ing in to Schumer and Pelosi. How of­ten is that go­ing to hap­pen?

Maybe there could be a deal over a cod­i­fi­ca­tion of DACA, with Trump again largely de­fer­ring to Schumer and Pelosi, or some cre­ative in­fra­struc­ture pack­age. But there are lim­its to what Ryan and Mc­Connell, who have con­sid­er­able leg­isla­tive power, would be will­ing to bring to the floor; they aren’t go­ing to shift to the left just be­cause Trump does.

And Schumer has his own pri­or­i­ties. He isn’t go­ing to bless a “tax cut for the rich.” He’s not go­ing to re­peal Oba­macare. He’s not go­ing to fund the bor­der wall. He’s not go­ing to sup­port the RAISE act, cutting lev­els of le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. He’s not go­ing to roll over on an­other con­ser­va­tive Supreme Court nom­i­nee.

The idea that Trump, who has been too in­ept to help his own party in Congress, will team up with per­haps the most de­vi­ously shrewd Democrat in the coun­try and come out on top is dif­fi­cult to credit. Schumer will milk Trump for what­ever he can get — ev­ery tac­ti­cal ad­van­tage, ev­ery bit of new spend­ing — so long as he doesn’ t give away any­thing im­por­tant and doesn’t ma­te­ri­ally boost Trump’s po­lit­i­cal stand­ing.

The dal­liance with Schumer comes in the midst of the Repub­li­can push for tax re­form. It can only add an­other layer of dis­trust and dys­func­tion atop an al­readyfraught re­la­tion­ship with the GOP lead­er­ship at a time when it is grap­pling with an enor­mously com­plex leg­isla­tive task.

In­deed, the ul­ti­mate ap­peal to Trump of an al­liance with Schumer must be the hope of es­cape from the chaos of his own govern­ing style, which has been a drag on his own party. But there is no es­cape, whether Trump’s wing­man is Mc­Connell or Schumer, or, for that mat­ter, Ted Cruz or Bernie San­ders.

The Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader may look al­lur­ing now. Soon enough, he will be just as un­sat­is­fac­tory in Trump’s eyes as nearly ev­ery­one else in Wash­ing­ton. RICH LOWRY can be reached via email: com­ments.lowr y@na­tional re­

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