I've read up on it a bit and I think I understand the basics. The 3-month debt ceiling extension gives the Democrats key negotiating leverage in December when the debt ceiling is up for discussion again. A 6 month or longer extension would have given the Republicans more power to pass the legislation they want over the next few months.

What I don't understand:

Bills are written in the House and sent to the Senate and the Republicans still have the majority. Couldn't they just use their majority to write any bill they wanted and send it to the Senate? All they need is 50% so they can pass anything they want, unless the tea party dissents, which has happened before. They can write their own bill, send it to the Senate and if it passes there, to Trump, challenging anyone to vote down the bill, which would be a vote against Harvey relief and a vote to shut down the government. I don't understand why the House can't just pass whatever they want and why Trump saying "I'm going with Nancy and Chuck" made this a done deal. Agreements are often reached between the President and Congress to make a compromise, but I've never seen one reached between the President and the minority party before, and the minority party can't write and pass bills, though I suppose with the President's stamp of approval, this one passed.

If anyone whats to chime in on "what was Trump thinking", I welcome that too, though I realize the "what was he thinking" is opinion, but at the same time, you can work out a person's strategy, so it's not entirely opinion. I think Trump wants to revisit the Wall as soon as possible and that's a key issue for him, that's why he was fine with just a 3-month spending extension. I also think he wanted to hit Paul Ryan sharply in the nose with a rolled up newspaper and this was his way of doing that because they've clearly had quite a bit of conflict recently.

How a president and a minority party can make an agreement and make it so. Has this happened before?

  • 7
    This question is based on the assumption that Trump has a strategy. That's not exactly a sure thing.
    – user1530
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:00
  • 4
    his strategy is to have a deal (good or not, with the GOP or not)
    – Max
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 18:07
  • 2
    @Max I think you're right. When this was announced, for a couple days I was all confused "what was he thinking??" and I read up on it a bit trying to make sense. I think your comment is basically the answer. Trump wanted a deal and he's not gotten that with the republicans so far in his presidency. The Dems offered him a deal and he saw taking it as more positive than negative so he shook hands on it.
    – userLTK
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:47
  • Related: politics.stackexchange.com/q/24466/1370 Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 20:57

4 Answers 4


The main issue is that the office of the president wields a large amount of influence. If President Trump says he supports the Democrat plan, it will be hard to rally legislatures in his party to go against him. Moreover, it will be impossible to create a veto-proof majority, meaning the best you can get is a stalemate.

At this point you hit the question of optics. If the legislature is openly and uniformly going against the president it just looks bad. It divides the party. It's a great way to lose a midterm election. Add on top of all this that this is a debt ceiling debate and you end up with a strong desire to not be seen as the one who is forcing the country into a shutdown.

Also keep in mind that the deal isn't done (yet). The ink is not dry, the bills have not been put forth or voted on yet, and Trump hasn't signed anything. It's possible the deal may fall through (though unlikely).

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    I do not think that a Republican president agreeing with the Republican plan (or Democrat president with Democratic plan) would have caused so much commotion; while I do not find your answer wrong maybe you could expand it to consider the importance of the President "crossing the aisle" idioms.thefreedictionary.com/cross+the+aisle
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 7:01

Basically the issue with Republicans passing bills is they don't actually have common goals and ideology. They have seemingly similar goals but the specifics of what they want can be very different. Individuals may have different goals in specific areas. More moderate Republicans tend to go against most extreme right bills, while the radical right Tea Party goes against more moderate bills.

  • 1
    I agree with you on the lack of common goals. So, in a sense, by siding the the democrats and some republicans crossing the aisle, it's actually easier to get bills passed. Seems to violate the Hastert Rule, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hastert_Rule which isn't actually a "rule" but more of a choice. But, maybe the need for passing the immediate funding for Harvey was the exception in this case. I still feel like there's something I'm missing here, but I can't put my finger on it.
    – userLTK
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 4:19

This is classic negotiating strategy. It is a message to the republicans - you don't have enough of a majority to stop me, and the other side will make a deal.

Shape up, or be marginalized in midterm elections.


Why have individual members of Congress, at all, if it's about monolithic, uniform party votes? There have been divisions within the GOP about the debt ceiling ever since Congressional members first started using it as a bargaining chip - some don't understand how it works, others think it should be used to leverage spending cuts where they want it, others still think it should be raised as a normal matter of business. That's going to mean, no, they can't necessarily just pass anything whenever they have a majority +1 advantage. See "Obamacare" replacement, then repeal only, then even the promise to repeal it, as a working example of that.

"If the TEA Party dissents" - that's pretty standard on almost any issue, as opposed to the exception. By their philosophy and mandate, they are pretty much against the concept of federal government (or, if you wish, they feel the federal government is far beyond the scope its original, legitimate, authorized mandate) , so they will usually have drastic demands on any item that deals with actual governing instead of hobbling the federal machinery.

And, no, deals with the opposing party by a president are not uncommon. There's almost always some common ground or goals they can agree upon. At least, they weren't uncommon until the GOP made a pact to try and stop anything Obama supported, even if it was their own measures, in 2009. What's remarkable about this is that the president AND his party are usually together in negotiating with the opposition party. It seems like the president kind of made that determination, on the spot, without consulting with the GOP leadership.

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