President Donald Trump was always a man who claimed to transcend conventional political divisions. While he won the Republican nomination in dominant fashion, he also did so without taking traditionally conservative stances. He even has a history of voting for Democratic candidates – including his own competitor, Hillary Clinton. When he had to fill out his cabinet, several Republicans feared that the New York businessmen that he was bringing onto his team shared his liberal leanings.
Now that tax reform legislation is on the docket, these Republican fears are growing louder. Several cabinet members explicitly responsible for overseeing tax reform, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, are being accused of Democratic tendencies. Both are New York businessmen more committed to Trump than to their party.
This accusation comes as Trump expresses willingness himself to work with Democrats. After getting burned on his first attempt as ushering legislation through Congress, in which he could not leverage a narrow Republican majority even to repeal Obamacare, he is now trying to work across the aisle. His thinking is that if Republicans could not get him a win on even an issue as politically valuable as Obamacare, then maybe leveraging moderate Democrats in his home state of New York and in traditionally red states like Missouri and North Dakota.
He hosted several moderate Democrats at the White House for dinner and on Air Force One this week seeking a compromise on tax reform.
Virginia Republican Dave Brat, on the Ways and Means Committee, said “there better not be a curveball coming up” when asked about the work of cabinet members Cohn and Mnuchin. “We don’t want our president and his administration moving all over the place away from Republican principles,” he added.
“Mnuchin did a lot of damage to himself when he went to the House Republicans and said, ‘Vote for this shitty debt ceiling deal and do it for me,’” said one conservative strategist. “This is a guy, who for months, had lobbied for a clean debt ceiling increase and had no idea where the conference was and then suddenly switched.”