Thursday, September 14, 2017

Trump and the Democrats: What the hell is going on with DACA?

Let me just start by saying... what the fuck?

OK, so... Trump, Pelosi and Schumer have dinner, Pelosi and Schumer say they have a tentative deal on DACA, and now Trump says there is no deal.  What the fuck is going on here?

Let's start with what is highly unlikely:  the passage of anything like the debt ceiling deal, but on immigration.  Remember that on the debt ceiling, Trump made a deal with Pelosi and Schumer, cutting most of the GOP out of the process.  Here's what's so odd about that.  In the House of Representatives, the majority party exercises a form of agenda control based around the following principle:  when a majority of the majority party opposes a bill, it doesn't get a vote.  This is sometimes known as the "Hastert rule," after former Speaker and well-known child molester Dennis Hastert, who semi-formalized the rule during his tenure as Speaker.  Apparently, letting a bill get to the floor when opposed by the majority party was a bridge too far for him.  Molesting children?  Nope.  He was totally cool with that.  Just don't bring bills to the floor of Congress against the preferences of the majority party.  Standards, you know...

Anyway, the majority party doesn't generally let bills reach the floor if they are opposed by a majority of the majority party.  Gary Cox and Mathew McCubbins have formalized this into the "cartel" theory of party organization in Congress.  It holds.  Much of the time anyway.  Why doesn't it work on the debt ceiling?  Well... here's the thing.  Paul Ryan wanted the debt ceiling deal to reach a vote, and much of his caucus wanted the deal to get to the floor.  They just wanted to cast symbolic votes against it.  Why?  Because they knew that breaching the debt ceiling would be disastrous, and they would take the blame.  This was the same thing that played out with Boehner.  There are a bunch of idiots in the Freedom Caucus who want to breach the debt ceiling, but most of them are just trying to figure out how to let debt ceiling increases happen without voting for them.  The problem is... that's hard when you are the fucking majority party.  At the very least, you need to let there be violations of the child molester's rule.  So, that's why the deal between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer slipped through the normal rules of "cartel" politics.

A DACA deal, though?  Nope.  There's no way Trump, Pelosi and Schumer can cut the congressional GOP out of the loop on that one.  Why?  Because even if that six-month deadline expires, as far as the congressional GOP is concerned, there's no disaster.  Sure, it sucks for the people who are no longer protected from deportation, but after that, you are in the realm of ideology.  And a lot of the GOP right now consists of immigration hardliners.  One of the worst words you can use in the GOP right now?  "Amnesty."  That was the word that killed George W. Bush's immigration reform proposal in 2005.  Any deal on DACA will be called "amnesty."  That word will kill the deal among enough of the House GOP that Paul Ryan won't be allowed to bring it up for a vote.

Breaching the debt ceiling is the kind of thing that evokes terror in the mind of anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about economics.  That's enough to override normal legislative politics.  That just isn't the case with DACA.

So... what's the deal with Pelosi and Schumer saying there was a deal and Trump saying no?

Um...

Uh...

I'm really not sure here.

Two possibilities present themselves.  A)  Trump was just trying to keep some sort of friendly vibe going, and in the process, made it seem, unintentionally, like he was going along with Pelosi and Schumer.  The political equivalent of a flirt leading someone on, unintentionally.  B)  Trump said one thing behind closed doors, let Pelosi make an announcement, and then stabbed her in the back in order to try to get back on conservatives' good side.

The trouble is, I could actually see either of these being true.  Trump wants to be liked.  Desperately.  He may very well have spent that dinner cozying up to Pelosi and Schumer without thinking about anything he said, and consequently, made semi-promises that he wouldn't have made had he been thinking.  That's perfectly consistent with Trump's "please like me" pathology.  Then again, there's B.  Right after the debt ceiling deal, I warned about Trump's untrustworthiness being an obstacle to future deal-making with Pelosi and Schumer, and here we are.  Is that what happened, or was he just trying to be overly-friendly during dinner without thinking about what he was saying?

We don't have a recording of what happened, and even if we did, trying to understand the motives of a guy who is a) not very smart, and b) the most dishonest person in political history may be a fool's errand.  Still, the likelihood of a debt ceiling-like deal on DACA is very low.  Ryan can't allow it to reach a floor vote in the House, particularly not after the debt ceiling.  Then add to that the fact that Trump keeps going back and forth about whether or not wall-funding must be a part of any given bill and the whole thing is just Trump-ian chaos.

What's going on with DACA?  As with anything Trump-related, chaos.

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