White House tries to heal rift with GOP legislators
The White House sent Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to Capitol Hill yesterday, hoping to heal the rift that opened following President Trump's deal with the Democrats on the debt ceiling and government spending.
It didn't go very well.
Mnuchin, along with Trump's budget chief, Mick Mulvaney went up to Capitol Hill shortly before a vote on the package, which included money for hurricane aid, a continuing resolution to keep the government open and a three-month extension of the debt ceiling.
Multiple House Republicans emerged infuriated and dissatisfied that they addressed their concerns that the deal wasn't the right strategy to get some of the spending reforms they've been pushing.
In the closed-door meeting, Mnuchin appeared to exacerbate the anger of House Republicans who opposed clean debt limit extensions, as the treasury secretary appealed to members to do this "for me," according to two members in the meeting.
Florida Republican Ted Yoho told reporters one House Republican told the treasury secretary directly "you know what, unfortunately you don't get voted in or voted out and you can't vote for me."
Most rank-and-file House Republicans don't know Mnuchin and more than one said they believed he was a Democrat, based on his previous donations to political candidates.
A source in the room described Mnuchin's performance as one where the treasury secretary clearly did not understand the long-simmering frustrations among conservatives when it came to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts. Mnuchin further irritated conservatives when he left the meeting because of other commitments with roughly a dozen members still in line waiting for him to answer their questions.
Rep. David Brat added Mnuchin's arguments were "intellectually insulting." Brat said members asked Mnuchin and Mulvaney for reassurances that the GOP have a bigger fiscal plan and got nothing in return.
"Crickets," the Virginia Republican said, adding that House Speaker Paul Ryan could say nothing to assure them that Trump wouldn't repeat a deal like this in the future.
The frustration with Mnuchin stretched over to the White House later Friday, as one official there called Munchin's pitch amateurish and a sign of his relative unfamiliarity with Washington.
Mnuchin's urging that Republicans vote for the bill "for me" was not part of the administration's planned pitch, the official said, adding it isn't being well received in some circles at the White House.
Trump sent Mnuchin into a bear trap. Conservatives in the House have been bypassed once too often for that meeting to be anything except a gripe session on steroids. They didn't want to listen. They wanted to vent. Mnuchin's pathetic plea to "win one for the Mnunch" was about as tone deaf as you can get. Truly a disastrous meeting.
Or was it? What Trump showed by cutting a deal with Democrats is that he believes he doesn't really need them to govern. Of course, the Democrats will disabuse Trump of that notion soon enough. The Dems don't hate Trump any less because of this deal and will look to undermine his authority wherever they can.
But by setting Mnuchin up as a punching bag, Trump gave Republicans an outlet for their frustration while reminding them, they really have nowhere else to go. This is important as it appears there will be one more effort to repeal/replace Obamacare and a major push for tax cuts in the near future. Trump needs almost all Republicans on board to get those measures passed.
I don't think Trump will be sending Mnuchin up the Hill again any time soon.