GOP Cautiously Welcome Trump Era 01/22 10:20
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Republicans anxiously monitor President
Donald Trump's Twitter feed, parse his pronouncements, and brace for potential
controversy each time he gives an interview.
But GOP lawmakers also say they're growing increasingly accustomed to
expecting the unexpected from Trump, and they're learning to take his abrupt
pivots in stride, even when what he says stirs divisions or casts doubt on key
So at the dawn of the Trump presidency, the most optimistic Republicans on
Capitol Hill have high hopes they can learn to work with the new chief
executive to bring about positive change for a bitterly divided nation. The GOP
has monopoly control over Washington for the first time in a decade, and
Republicans are keenly aware that voters expect them to deliver.
"It's what the American people want. It's refreshing," said House Majority
Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "You'll see the House and Trump working closely
together. We have the same priorities."
Many congressional Republicans, from Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on down,
were slow to embrace Trump's candidacy, and some of those concerns linger.
Several lawmakers are wary of Trump's foreign policy stances, such as his
skepticism toward NATO. Trump's fickleness, his tendency to embrace a position
one day before seeming to abandon it the next, confounds some in his party.
That happened recently on health care and taxes, the two domestic issues for
Congress this year. In a pair of high-profile interviews this month, Trump made
a surprise call for health insurance for everyone and cast doubt on a core
plank of the House GOP tax plan, before softening both stances in subsequent
GOP Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, his state's governor for eight
years before coming to Congress, said a chief executive needs to take a stand.
"It's OK in a campaign world to cause people to not be sure of how you're
going to react, it keeps them on edge and maybe not on their full game,"
Sanford said. "In the world of governance, it can be disastrous."
Trump himself disclosed that Ryan called him up and asked him to stop
talking about taxes, because "it's very complicated stuff." But in general,
Ryan and other members of GOP leadership, who are in frequent contact with
Trump and his top aides, tend to be sanguine about Trump's erratic public
pronouncements. They say that as rank-and-file lawmakers get to know Trump
better their concerns will be quieted, too.
President Barack Obama came under criticism from lawmakers of both parties
for his hands-off approach to Congress, his apparent disinterest in schmoozing
with lawmakers or using the trappings of his office to woo them. Top lawmakers
and aides say they've already impressed upon Trump's lieutenants the importance
of care and feeding of lawmakers, and they predict Trump will have better
congressional relations than Obama.
"There's an inclination this president has toward personal relationships,
meaningful personal relationships," said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North
Carolina, a member of the House GOP leadership. "So day by day, members get
more comfortable with how this president expresses his power and utilizes his
power. Even if they don't fully grasp it, they're gaining comfort with his
Some Trump supporters have said they learned to take the new president
seriously, but not literally, over the course of the campaign, and GOP
lawmakers are learning to do the same. After Trump made his comment about
everyone having insurance once Obama's health care plan is repealed, lawmakers
quickly decided that what Trump actually meant was that everyone should have
"access" to insurance, which is the standard GOP talking point.
"I guess you'd probably have to ask him what exactly he means by that, but
my assumption is that it's a reference to what most of us have been talking
about," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. "And that is we want to make sure that
everybody in the country has access to a health insurance plan that works for
them and is affordable."
Similarly, Trump surprised some lawmakers by declaring he had his own health
care plan on the verge of completion; if so, no one has seen it. But others
shrugged it off, concluding that Trump was probably really just talking about
the proposals under development between Trump's transition team and GOP
Lawmakers got an early taste of the power of Trump's Twitter feed as the
115th Congress came into session at the beginning of January. As their first
act, House Republicans decided behind closed doors to gut an independent ethics
office. But when Trump tweeted his disapproval amid a public backlash, the GOP
immediately reversed course.
Now the hope among Republican lawmakers is that Trump will spare them his
Twitter fire and focus instead on recalcitrant Senate Democrats, nudging them
into helping the GOP replace Obama's health law and overhaul tax laws. But as
Trump begins governing, even supporters on Capitol Hill say they can't predict
what will happen next.
"It's Donald Trump, you should expect the unexpected," former Speaker John
Boehner, R-Ohio, said Friday as Trump prepared to take the oath. "If you think
the last 12 months have been pretty crazy, wait till you see the next 12