President Trump seems to have learned a lesson after his first set of negotiations with Congress. Trump tried to bully a bill through the Senate that would have repealed Obamacare, as he tried to leverage a narrow 52-48 Republican majority. However, he found that despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s negotiating skills, and his own threats on Twitter, finding agreement among all 52 Republican Senators – even on an issue as politically valuable as Obamacare – proved too difficult. This time around, with tax reform, he’s suggesting that he will try a bipartisan path forward.
Trump invited three Democrats from traditionally red states to the White House this week to discuss the tax reform issue. The three Senators include Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. They have interest in a bipartisan agreement, as all are up for reelection in 2018 and could earn votes from moderate constituents for working across party lines.
This move comes after Trump publicly tweeted about Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, and welcomed Senator Heitkamp onto Air Force One. This expressed willingness to work with Democrats has caused infuriation among Republican party loyalists, but represents a threat that they always should have seen coming. Trump is ideologically fickle; he even has a personal record that includes voting for his competitor Hillary Clinton.
While this lack of ideology may hurt the Republican party in the short term, it represents the potential that Trump has as an independent leader. If he really wants to “drain the swamp” of the bipartisan political system and negotiate with various factions of the government, the New York businessman may be able to satisfy many Americans. He starts with items on the Republican agenda, such as tax reform, but may move into areas that he and his New York allies are familiar with, such as infrastructure/