WH: Trump Did ‘More for Bipartisanship in the Last 8 Days Than Obama Did in 8 Years’

By Melanie Arter | September 13, 2017 | 5:14pm EDT
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (CNSNews.com/Melanie Arter)

(CNSNews.com) - The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump has done more for bipartisanship than former President Barack Obama did during both terms in office.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was responding to questions about tonight’s scheduled dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, specifically whether he was negotiating on behalf of Republican congressional leadership.

“The president is negotiating on behalf of the American people exactly what he was elected to do, and the idea that you guys keep trying to distort this into a bad thing is, I think, exactly why this president was elected. They were sick and tired of business as usual,” Sanders said.

“They wanted somebody who would break up the status quo, that would bring people from both sides of the table together to have conversations. This president has done more for bipartisanship in the last eight days than Obama did in eight years,” she added.

When asked whether Sanders was basing that statement off of the meetings Trump has had with Democrats at the White House, Sanders said, “I’m basing that on the fact that he’s actually willing to sit down with members of the opposite party, something that President Obama rarely did, and certainly didn't listen to members of the opposite party.

“I can't think of a single time where he made a deal with anybody from the opposite side of -- from anybody beyond the Democrat Party,” she said. “And again, this president is committed to doing that.

“He hasn’t just done it once, but he’s continuing to do that as we move into one of the most ambitious legislative agendas that we’ve had in a long time, and we're committed to working with Democrats. He’s both stated that publicly and in these meetings that he’s going to continue to have,” Sanders said.

Sanders was peppered with questions regarding why the president did not invite GOP congressional leaders to the dinner with Schumer and Pelosi.

One reporter pointed out that Trump has called Schumer a “clown” in the past and Pelosi a “loser,” and noted that the president now seems to be getting close to the Democratic congressional leadership.

“But now he seems to recognize that he needs them. How does that work? What changed?” the reporter asked.

Sanders said, “I think it's less about him needing them but more about the president wanting to work with them and wanting to help move this country forward. As we've said many times before, we've got a very ambitious legislative agenda for this fall, and the president wants to work with anybody that wants to move America forward.

“And if they're willing to do that -- sit down, be part of that conversation on both tax cuts and tax reform, responsible immigration reform -- then the president certainly welcomes those conversations,” she added.

Sanders was asked whether the president views Pelosi and Schumer “as equal allies on the Hill for getting things done, on par with” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“Look, the president is a Republican, and certainly I think ideologically that's a much cleaner matchup, but again, if these people and these individuals, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, want to come together to push the president's agenda and the agenda that clearly the American people want to see, or they wouldn't have elected Donald Trump, then we're certainly happy to have that conversation and move that ball forward,” Sanders said.

“His meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi tonight. This is the kind of thing that conservatives who ran against him in the presidential race warned about, that he would be cutting deals with Chuck and Nancy that would not uphold the ideals of conservatives. So why is he meeting with just the two of them this evening? And is he hoping to strike an immigration deal with Schumer and Pelosi?” a reporter asked.

“I think it’s pretty disingenuous for people to say he’s only meeting with Democrats. The president is the leader of the Republican Party and was elected by Republicans. He beat out 16 other candidates to take that mantle on, and certainly, I think, is one of the strongest voices. And so the idea that the Republican Party ideas are not represented in that room is just ridiculous,” Sanders said.

When asked what the reaction has been from Trump supporters regarding the president reaching out to Democrats, Sanders said, “This was something that the president talked about on the campaign trail, of being a good dealmaker and being able to sit down with members of both sides, and be able to bring a deal and bring good legislation for the American people. This isn’t new, and people listened and heard the president, and certainly supported him, and that's why he's here today.”

Asked why Trump doesn’t invite McConnell and Ryan, Sanders said, “Look, you've got the leader of the Republican Party sitting at the table. This is the president's opportunity to have a very open and honest conversation with members of the Senate, and I think anybody that tries to distort it into something other than that is just misunderstanding what the purpose is,” Sanders said.

Sanders said she didn’t think it was a mistake that Trump did not invest more time and energy in the Schumer-Pelosi relationship earlier stage in his presidency.

“I don't think so. I think that right now we're at a critical time where we have some big things on the agenda -- tax reform, responsible immigration reform. He’s committed to working, again, with both Republicans and Democrats to push those through, and hopes that they’ll come on board to do that,” she said. 

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