In the days immediately following the government shutdown, the White House launched a rather clumsy campaign to drive a wedge between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). During his holiday trip to Iraq, for example, Donald Trump mocked Schumer for allowing Pelosi to “call the shots.”
Three days later, as the shutdown reached the one week mark, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters, “This all comes down to Mrs. Pelosi’s speakership. I think left to his own devices, that Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats probably would cut a deal, but they’re protecting Mrs. Pelosi.”
Yesterday, the president abandoned all subtlety, declaring at a White House gathering:
“I think that Chuck Schumer, sadly, is dominated by the radical left, and he is dominated by Nancy Pelosi. Very strongly dominated. He can’t move; he’s a puppet. He’s a puppet for Nancy Pelosi, if you can believe that. But that’s what’s become and that’s what’s happening.”
The strategy is transparent: Trump and his team believe if they can divide Congress’ Democratic leaders, Schumer will side with the Republican White House and Pelosi will have no choice but to follow their lead.
The trouble, of course, is that this is a rather silly fantasy.
Politico reported this week on the solidity of the Pelosi-Schumer partnership.
A few days before Washington staggered into what would become the longest shutdown in U.S. history, Chuck Schumer received a request from Donald Trump.
The president wanted the Senate minority leader to visit the White House to discuss his demands for the border wall, which would need Democratic votes to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. Previously, Schumer had held one-on-one negotiations with Trump. But this time, the New York Democrat had a new condition: “Only with Nancy.”
“We do it all together, that’s an agreement we had from the get-go,” Schumer said of his stance with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on not giving Trump an inch on the wall.
“We realize we’re a team,” Schumer said in an interview. “Sometimes we talk strategy four to five times a day. And there are times we disagree. But we come to the same result.”
This is very much in line with a recent Washington Post report on the degree to which Pelosi and Schumer are “working in tandem.”
No two principals in the shutdown fight have presented a more united front than “Chuck and Nancy,” as Trump has dubbed them. The two leaders have refused to make any key strategic moves in the shutdown fight without consulting each other and have become so simpatico that their staffs regularly joke that the two finish each other’s sentences. […]
The two have talked several times a day since the shutdown battle began, aides say, mostly from their cellphones and so frequently that they are often relaying updates to their staff, not the other way around. Schumer, who is famous for having memorized the cellphone numbers for every member of the Senate Democratic caucus, has also committed Pelosi’s digits to memory.
If the White House plan depended on dividing Pelosi and Schumer, it’s clearly time for a new plan.