The idea that Donald Trump would barrel into Washington, D.C., and get things done was a key reason many voters cast their ballots for him in the 2016 presidential election. This week, President Trump delivered on that promise, in a way his political party may not have appreciated but the rest of America should.
On Wednesday, Trump reached an important deal at an important time with congressional leadership. To his credit, he recognized that a country dealing with one, possibly two major hurricane disasters didn’t need a political fight over raising the debt ceiling or run the risk of economic fallout from failing to do so. So the president made a get-it-done decision to work with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, fund the government and provide Hurricane Harvey relief.
The short-term deal avoids the unnecessary drama of a midnight vote as deadlines for taking care of this vital agenda loom by the end of month. The agreement also avoids unnecessarily rattling the markets and gives Congress breathing room until mid-December to reach consensus on thoughtful, longer-term solutions on government spending and the debt ceiling. The measure easily passed the Senate and House this week with support from both Republicans and Democrats.
Trump should sign the legislation with a flourish and shrug off carping by some Republicans that he’d worked with the opposition party. This is what demolishing gridlock looks like. Polls show that Americans value bipartisanship, and Trump’s pragmatism in rounding up necessary votes when his own party can’t deliver them merits thanks, not complaints.
Trump should also build on this momentum to pass a permanent solution warding off future congressional stalemates — scrapping the debt ceiling. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with Democratic leaders to work on this. Republicans ought to sign on, too.
Misunderstandings about the debt ceiling have fueled detestable brinkmanship in Congress for years. Some mistakenly believe that not raising it reins in spending. But lifting it actually ensures that the nation can pay its bills for spending Congress has already approved — decisions that lawmakers knew at the time would involve borrowing to meet budget needs. Defaulting on the nation’s debt is simply reckless and ill-informed grandstanding.
Throughout much of congressional history, lawmakers have understood that and have voted routinely to raise the debt ceiling. That began changing in the early part of this decade, when GOP lawmakers wanted to attach spending cuts that they couldn’t get passed through traditional means. In 2011, rancor over raising the debt ceiling caused Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. debt rating for the first time.
The fact that hurricane relief aid was tied into the debt ceiling debate this month suggests that dubious demands will continue into the future from both parties. Trump should codify the “gentleman’s agreement” and claim credit for finally blowing up an irresponsible source of gridlock.