Democrats seek to turn Trump comments into action

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's happy dance when she was seated next to President Donald Trump in the White House ...

Posted: Mar. 2, 2018 4:16 AM
Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 4:17 AM

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's happy dance when she was seated next to President Donald Trump in the White House said it all.

While Democrats have yet to notch any major legislative victories in the age of Trump, they are increasingly hearing statements from him that are more in line with their talking points than the Republican President's party compatriots.

But the left is struggling with how to convert those impulses into reality.

Thursday's announcement from Trump that he would levy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports was the latest move that pleased Democrats while terrifying many Republicans -- with GOP senators swiftly criticizing the move.

Meanwhile, progressive Democrats like Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio hailed the move in language echoing Trump's own rhetoric on the campaign trail.

"This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating. President Trump must follow through on his commitment today to save American steel jobs and stop Chinese steel overcapacity from continuing to infect global markets," Brown said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Trump had Feinstein shimmying with glee at a bipartisan meeting on gun control when he suggested adding the California Democrat's proposals -- which have been largely opposed by Republicans -- to a bipartisan bill from other senators on background checks, to the chagrin of the GOP lawmakers in the room.

The episode was evocative of another in recent memory: a similar bipartisan meeting Trump held in January on immigration, where he at times seemed to suggest he'd support passing clean relief for young undocumented immigrants who had come to the US as children, including in another conversation with Feinstein. At that meeting, Republican congressional leaders had to jump in to make clear the President was still pushing for border security as well. He told the lawmakers gathered that he'd sign whatever they sent him, even if he didn't like it.

That meeting, on a Tuesday, was followed up by another infamous meeting that Thursday, where Trump used vulgar language to reject a bipartisan proposal brought to him by some of those lawmakers, setting the tone for a scorched-earth campaign by the administration to reject Democrats' follow-up offers, push its own immigration proposal and torpedo a bipartisan effort as it gained momentum in the Senate.

The episode coined the famous "Tuesday Trump" vs. "Thursday Trump" metaphor from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a phrase lawmakers have continued to use to illustrate the difficulty of predicting where the President will land on any issue.

Still, Democrats are hoping they can use his public pronouncements to pin him down and coax him to their side of the policy aisle.

"I think we just keep repeating his own words in a positive way, like, 'This is what he said. He called them out and said that this is smart and it's something we should do,' " Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said after the Wednesday meeting on guns at the White House. "The immigration debate is one that haunts us right now, because he did say he was for certain things but then he kept adding things to it. And so if that keeps happening, we'll have to call them on it and we will say, 'If you're going to be there for us on these gun violence victims, you can't just say the words. You have to walk the walk. Not just talk the talk.' "

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has long been pressing Trump to make good on certain pledges, be it getting tough on trade with China -- like the steel move -- or delivering on immigration or guns.

In a news conference Thursday, Schumer urged the President to work with Democrats to get a gun proposal over the finish line and to push back against pro-gun interests like the National Rifle Association.

"I think he realizes it's the right thing to do," Schumer told CNN's Sunlen Serfaty when asked why Schumer would think Trump would follow through. "He knows it will help him politically. The $64,000 question is, when the NRA leadership starts coming down on him, will he resist?"

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