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President Trump’s courtship of congressional Democrats intensified on Wednesday as he asserted a willingness to work with them on tax reform, immigration and infrastructure.

“Some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done in a bipartisan manner,” Trump told a group of moderate Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House. “And so that is what we are going to give a shot.”

{mosads}Trump’s sudden focus on reaching across the aisle has thrown Republicans off balance, leaving them to wonder if he will abandon them this fall as he seeks legislative accomplishments.

The president only stirred the pot further on Wednesday, as he talked at length about his interest in working with Democrats.

At one point, Trump vowed that the wealthiest Americans would not get a tax cut from the tax plan that’s being drafted by congressional Republicans. The rich might even end up paying more, he said.

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” Trump said. “We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs.”

The president also urged Congress to move quickly to address the young undocumented immigrants benefitting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which he decided last week to terminate.

“We don’t want to forget DACA. It’s already been a week and a half and people don’t talk about it as much,” Trump said.

Both statements put Trump closer in line with Democrats.

The new dynamic comes after Trump surprised both sides of the aisle last week by striking a deal with Democratic leaders to extend the nation’s borrowing limit, fund the government for three months and provide $15 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Since then, Trump’s newfound focus on bipartisanship has been apparent in his schedule.

The president dined in the Blue Room of the White House Wednesday night with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom he now affectionately calls “Chuck and Nancy.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed concerns that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not be at the dinner.

“You’ve got the leader of the Republican Party sitting at the table,” she told reporters at her daily press briefing. She said the president’s critics and the news media are trying to “distort” the president’s intentions.

Ryan dined privately with Trump last Thursday.

The Schumer-Pelosi dinner was one of several bipartisan meetings the White House has arranged. Trump ate dinner Tuesday night with a bipartisan group of senators, aiming to win their support for tax reform. The guests included vulnerable Democratic incumbents Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who all hail from states that Trump won in last year’s election.

The president also flew with Heitkamp last Wednesday on Air Force One to an event in her home state plugging his tax plan.

Trump’s overtures to Democrats have made Republicans anxious, in large part because of his unpredictability.

Many in his own party are incensed that he cut the fiscal deal with Schumer and Pelosi, fearing he undermined the GOP’s leverage.

Some speculate that the president could turn to the Democrats again in the winter to strike a deal on government spending and the debt ceiling, or forge a grand bargain on immigration.

It’s also possible that Trump, who campaigned as the ultimate negotiator, is sending a message to Ryan and McConnell that he can go in a different direction if they are unable to deliver major legislation to his desk.

White House officials downplayed the notion Trump was firing a warning shot at his GOP counterparts in Congress.

“No, there’s not any sort of warning or signal that’s being sent,” said White House legislative director Marc Short. “We believe that we continue to have a very good working relationship with [Speaker Ryan] and Leader McConnell.”

Trump’s advisers have cast the bipartisan outreach as a lesson learned after Trump and the GOP’s failed effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, which they pursued without the help of Democrats.

But many are skeptical Trump will succeed in wooing the opposition party, mostly because no one knows if he’ll give them key concessions needed to secure their support.

Despite the president’s tax comments Wednesday, the White House this spring proposed massive cuts to the individual and corporate tax rates, as well as a reshuffling of exemptions that experts said would benefit the wealthy. Most Democrats are certain to oppose such a plan.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Republicans and administration officials plan to release a “consensus” tax-reform framework on Sept. 25.

Trump and his team have also gone back and forth on whether they will demand that funding for a border wall be attached to a DACA bill, something Democrats have called a nonstarter.

But in one sign of the Democrats’ growing clout, Trump took Pelosi’s advice last week when she encouraged him to tweet a message of reassurance to DACA recipients.

Still, Democrats might not be interested in helping deliver legislative victories for a Republican president whose approval ratings currently sit in the mid-30s — especially ahead of a midterm election year where they hope to win back the House.

There’s also plenty of bad blood on both sides.

Trump had been waging a scorched-earth campaign against Democratic leaders, dubbing Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck” after the top Democrat slammed his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director. He has also called Schumer “head clown.”

“I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party – and please let Cryin’ Chuck stay!” Trump tweeted this summer after the party lost a special House election in Georgia.

Democrats, in turn, have accused Trump of racism, misogyny and abuse of power, with some in the party calling for him to be impeached.

Still, there are reasons to think that dealmaking between Trump and the Democrats is possible.

Of the four congressional leaders, the president perhaps has the closest relationship with Schumer. Both hail from the outer boroughs of New York and know each other dating back to Trump’s years in the real estate world. During his business career, Trump primarily made political donations to Democrats.

The White House sought to reassure Republicans that the president remains on their side.

Asked if the president views Schumer and Pelosi on equal footing with Ryan and McConnell, Sanders said, “the president is a Republican, and certainly I think ideologically that’s a much cleaner matchup.”

Tags Charles Schumer Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Kevin Brady Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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