Are Schumer and Pelosi foxes in the Trump henhouse?
Nancy Pelosi (right) and Chuck Schumer. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

If you are attuned to religious allusions, then working with Trump in any way is dealing with the devil.  If you are more like me, my allusion would be entertainment oriented –the old TV series “Maverick.” Here the savvy but basically moral gambler rides into a town that has a corrupt sheriff in charge. He figures out a scheme to get something decent out of the town boss, and then rides off into the sunset before the sheriff realizes he’s been had.

The Maverick in my example is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, who Sept. 6 gave Trump something he wanted – a quick resolution of the nearly $8 billion down payment on Hurricane Harvey relief,  an escape for three months from the debt ceiling crisis and a continuing resolution on the economy.

As Senate minority leader, Schumer probably wanted a lengthier time to extend the debt ceiling, such as until the end of 2018, but the December time frame puts the issue squarely in the lap of the Republicans as they start campaigning for 2018. That’s close enough for people to blame the GOP for whatever they do and prevent such trickery as shutting down the government.  It also makes more dangerous any self-serving ornaments the Republican majority attempts to hang on the debt ceiling bill. It also clears a path, sort of, on tax reform and infrastructure – two issues the GOP is more avid about.

And Schumer, with Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi right alongside, wanted and got swift hurricane relief when the Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell wanted it all to seem his doing on his watch. He was outplayed at the poker table.

It’s not that Schumer doesn’t know what a dissembler he’s working with.  As a fellow New Yorker, he knows Trump’s motor is to do things fast, get it off his desk and make any deal and proclaim it good.  Trump was basking in having seemed sane during Harvey, he knows McConnell has “let me down” on legislative action and he is often just spinning from one thing to make himself look smart for the moment.

Schumer gave him that, while quietly sticking it to the centrist Republicans and reminding everyone (except dense TV pundits) that he and Pelosi still know how to get things done.

Schumer might have preferred really solving the debt ceiling issue for a longer term and ensuring that the hurricane relief is more than just a down payment.  But with Trump he must settle for what he can get.  While most progressives shudder in understandable fear of the unstable Trump, Schumer realizes he’s stuck with this guy — until events and evidence offer some other solution.

So he understands how even more deals may be possible and how to work with an egomaniac who thinks he has a big heart.

What deals? How about DACA, which was horrid and life-threatening for Trump to end as he did – a sad reminder of how backwards our nation has become in a few short years.

Yet today there are even Democratic bills in the House for Dreamers that many Republicans say they would support if the politics were different.

It’s mainstream Republicans who couldn’t then or now admit that Obama achieved with DACA exactly what they intended if they hadn’t been so fixated (hello Mitch) on blocking anything Obama proposed.  But now the people whose opinions Trump cares about, such as business Republicans, are speaking out against his DACA elimination and how it could cost the economy $2 billion.  Even official Republicans are supporters though still desirous of sticking it to the long-gone Obama.

Schumer, like Maverick at the bar-room poker table, seems to be reading Trump’s hand.   If Trump can rebrand DACA as his, and tinker with the edges, he might be open to a bill to renew, even if House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to be holding out for something more.  Congress will never approve money for the silly border wall, but some smaller security steps might get bipartisan support if Schumer also gets DACA. Comprehensive immigration reform would be great, but DACA assured? That would be a big step on its own and that sort of thing Trump might go for to prove he is not as xenophobic as he often sounds.

If Pelosi in the House is holding the Democrats  fast as she often has,  and adds those Republicans willing to be cut out of the Ryan herd on this popular issue, that would be a majority (it only takes 22). Schumer seems to have inroads into enough senators with Latino anxiety to get to 60.

Trump (notice how in his parlance they are now “Chuck and Nancy”) is not averse to working on a Democratic agenda as long as it is called the Trump agenda. If there is way to frame what Obama did for DACA, without Obama’s name or echo, I suspect Trump would pass it in a heartbeat (remember he thinks he has a big heart) and claim it as his own.

We are well past the time that either side can take full credit for advancement on issues the other side can block. It is certainly time for the voters to know where the best maneuvers come from no matter who takes credit.

Schumer hopes he gave up nothing that would upset Democrats in his first deal, which upsets Republicans.  But since Trump has never been married to the Republican platform there may be a lot of wiggle room left.  The smartest wiggler right now is fellow New Yorker Schumer, who can shrug off the insults and erratic behavior — if he gets what he wants from an insulting, erratic president.


Dominique Paul Noth
Dominique Paul Noth

Dominique Paul Noth for the past decade was editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press and website, He now writes as an independent journalist on culture and politics.