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What happens when Trump asks for Pelosi's help?

Trump wants Congress to approve NAFTA 2.0. But how high a price is he willing to pay?
Image: 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration
WASHINGTON, USA - JANUARY 20: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) President-elect Donald Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional...

After investing an enormous amount of effort into telling Americans that he'd get Mexico to pay for a giant border wall, Donald Trump switched gears a couple of months ago, declaring that Mexico is already paying for a wall.

"Mexico is paying for the Wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal," the president wrote on Twitter, referring to the renegotiated NAFTA. There were, of course, all kinds of problems with the laughably foolish argument, not the least of which was the simple fact that the USMCA agreement hasn't even been implemented yet.

The White House, however, hopes to change that soon. Politico reported overnight:

The White House is engineering an unusually by-the-book approach for selling Congress on the replacement deal for NAFTA -- with the hope of persuading Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote for the new trade agreement.Administration officials have been organizing dozens of meetings with rank-and-file lawmakers to try to build bipartisan support for the deal, which restructures trade terms with Canada and Mexico.

The administration is reportedly seeking congressional approval of the trade deal by late summer, which will likely be a heavy lift. Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns, some of which may need to be brought to Canadian and Mexican officials.

But while the process unfolds, there's one thing about this political dynamic that stands out for me: this is an exceedingly rare example of Trump turning to Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders, seeking their help with a White House priority.

To be sure, the president has asked for Democratic votes and support over the last couple of years, but invariably, those have been in pursuit of priorities he knew they'd oppose. Trump asked Dems to give him billions of tax dollars for a giant border wall, for example, but even he must have realized they'd say no.

This is a qualitatively different situation. White House officials believe NAFTA 2.0 might realistically pass; they're confident that it can garner bipartisan support with the appropriate pitch; and they think Democrats might be willing to go along for substantive reasons irrespective of partisan politics.

And who knows, maybe that's right. But what the president should probably start preparing is an answer to a simple question: "What's it worth to you?"

Nancy Pelosi knows Trump desperately wants this trade deal, just as she knows this may be the president's only chance for a legislative victory in 2019. That gives the House Speaker some leverage.

In fact, Politico's report added that House Democratic leaders are still exploring what they'll seek in exchange for support on the USMCA deal.

"She knows this is central to Trump's legislative agenda. So, it's natural that she'll have her own ask," a congressional aide said.

How high a price is Trump willing to pay? Watch this space.