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Trump strikes shock budget deal with Democrats

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump infuriated Republicans on Wednesday by agreeing to ease US borrowing limits, forestalling a government shutdown and siding with opposition Democrats in a high-stakes Washington policy fight.

Mr Trump hailed a "very good" deal with Democratic lawmakers that will see the government funded and able to borrow all it needs until at least Dec 15, avoiding a disruptive shutdown.

The deal will also provide billions in dollars of funding to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

"We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good," said a buoyant Mr Trump after meeting leaders from both parties in the Oval Office.

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During that sitdown Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin was among the Republicans arguing for a long-term extension to the so-called "debt ceiling", before Mr Trump shocked the room by jumping in to support Democrats' short-term fix.

Afterward the president - who based his political brand on being a consummate dealmaker - was notably warm toward Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who he repeatedly refered to as "Chuck and Nancy".

"We're very glad the president accepted, it's for the good of the country," Mr Schumer said with barely contained glee, describing the decision as "a really positive step forward".

Republicans however were livid, believing that come December, Democrats - a minority in both houses of Congress - will be able to demand concessions to keep the government open ahead of key 2018 mid-term elections.

That is likely to include extending protection against deportation to around 800,000 people brought to the United States illegally as children, without providing funding for Trump's "border wall" with Mexico.

Just hours earlier, House speaker Paul Ryan had described a deal linking the debt ceiling and hurricane funding as a "ridiculous idea".

"The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse, in a terse and censorious response to news of the agreement.

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell distanced himself from the decision, referring to it as a deal between Mr Trump and Democrats.

"His feeling was that we needed to come together and not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis," Mr McConnell said.

Top Trump legislative adviser Marc Short said the move helped Congress and the White House "clear the decks" of thorny political problems and "enables us to focus on tax reform".

Relations between Mr Trump and Republican leaders have long been strained by policy disputes and the president's jabs on Twitter.

In August, Mr Trump publicly berated Mr McConnell who he said "screamed" to replace Obama-era health care reforms for seven years and "couldn't get it done".

Another senior administration official denied that Mr Trump had sided with Democrats.

"He didn't go with the Democrats, he went with the country's needs," the official said.

"The country's needs, as he sees them right now, are to get many big legislative items tackled in short order by the end of this year," the official added.

AFP