Does Congress Need The President To Take The Lead?

Ironically, President Trump – a dealmaker in his past life – was nowhere to be seen when the deal to reopen the government was struck.

Mr. Trump had spent the weekend holed up in the White House, talking with friends, aides, and key Republican lawmakers, watching his surrogates speak for him on television, and perhaps most important, steering clear of top Democrats. Even his Twitter account stayed on message.

This was all by design, stage-managed by advisers who sought to prevent the chaos of the past few weeks from spilling over into the high-stakes arena of a partial government shutdown.

The gambit worked. Democratic leaders quickly concluded that Trump wasn’t going to address the plight of Dreamers – unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children – as part of a short-term spending bill, and so most Democrats voted to reopen the government. In exchange, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky pledged to take up immigration issues, including Dreamers, by early February.

The president’s defenders say Trump’s hands-off approach was, in fact, in keeping with his past as a businessman. He was doing what CEOs are supposed to do: delegate.

“There’s no question that Trump is still learning how to govern,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “In this instance he was smart to let his lieutenants – in this case, Senator McConnell and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan – work it out themselves, while saying essentially, I’m not giving in on Dreamers.”

Illegal immigration was a central issue for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and “Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to fight for him and do what he wants,” Mr. O’Connell says. “But he needs to be clearer about what it is he wants.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Analysis & Political Strategy