President Donald Trump forged a surprising deal with Democrats in Congress on Wednesday to extend the US debt limit and provide government funding until Dec 15, embracing his political adversaries and blindsiding fellow Republicans in a rare bipartisan accord.
Trump, living up to his reputation for unpredictability, met at the White House with congressional leaders from both parties and overruled Republicans and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who wanted a longer-term debt-limit extension rather than the three-month Democratic proposal the president embraced.
"We could have done a one-year deal today," Mnuchin told reporters aboard Air Force One later in the day en route back to Washington from an event in North Dakota where Trump spoke about taxes.
Mnuchin said Trump chose a short-term deal to keep his options open on possibly raising military funding later this year, suggesting a longer-term government funding deal might have blocked that.
Trump is very focused on military spending, "particularly with what's going on in North Korea and other parts of the world today," Mnuchin said. "The president wasn't willing to give up his need for additional military spending."
If passed by the Republican-led Congress, the three-month agreement would avert an unprecedented default on US government debt, keep the government funded at the outset of the fiscal year beginning Oct 1 and provide aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Less than an hour before the meeting, Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan had called the Democratic proposal that Trump later embraced a "ridiculous and disgraceful" idea that would "play politics with the debt ceiling."
Even with the three-month extension of the debt limit, a Senate Republican aide told reporters that nothing in the tentative deal would stop the Treasury Department from using its powers to extend the deadline, depending on revenue flow.