On the eve of Donald Trump’s first visit to Congress as the presumptive Republican nominee, the party’s lawmaker’s have a message for the media: can we talk about something else, please?
With Trump scheduled to sit down with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other party leaders in the House and Senate on Thursday, Ryan’s press office sent out a missive to the media Tuesday asking for some coverage on other issues. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri joked that he was about to issue a moratorium on Trump questions. And some lawmakers continued the “Harry Potter strategy ” popular on the Hill since Trump’s run began: They avoided saying the candidate’s name altogether.
The dueling approaches — meet with Trump, yes; acknowledge his power over the party, not really — run contrary to a growing national embrace of Trump and his steamroller of a campaign. It also signals that the party elite’s deep discomfort with Trump is likely to last well beyond November, even though some Republicans have begun to coalesce around him , Republican analysts have said.
The schism was apparent this week in the public comments from party leaders and the asides they presented as straight talk with media insiders.
Details of Trump’s visit to Congress trickled out this week. Ryan will meet with Donald Trump and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Republican National Committee, a source familiar with the meeting said. Immediately following that meeting, Ryan will hold a second meeting with Trump and House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Senate GOP leaders will meet with Trump at 11:45 a.m.
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A source familiar with Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Trump supporter Ben Carson’s team reached out and asked to speak with Ryan ahead of his meeting with Trump Thursday morning, and the teams have scheduled a phone call between the speaker and the former Republican presidential candidate.
But as Ryan’s staff was confirming such tidbits, a request from his spokeswoman also arrived in reporters’ inboxes.
“While it’s a busy week on the political front, it also happens to be an important week on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives,” an open letter from spokeswoman AshLee Strong wrote Tuesday. The letter reminded reporters that the House is voting today on a series of bi-partisan bills that will contribute the first major Congressional action on the nation’s opioid epidemic .
Blunt, meanwhile, expressed his fatigue with all things Trump to reporters in the Senate.
“Sometime in the next 24 hours I may do a total moratorium on any Trump questions in this building and just refer you to the office who knows how many times I’ve already answered the Trump questions,” Blunt reportedly said Monday. Even senators who had previously said they would support Trump avoided saying his name to reporters, according to a Talking Points Memo report.
And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another former presidential rival, rejected an unextended invitation to be Trump’s vice president.
The party does have a legitimate reason to be upset. Republican strategists say that Trump has put the GOP’s control over the Senate in doubt . One Senate campaign veteran last month estimated that the party had a 75 percent chance of losing the majority. Another put the odds at 80 percent. Colorado and Nevada, two western states that had been considered the Party’s best bet for flipping seats from blue to red are now in doubt in part because of their sizable Latino populations who have largely rejected Trump.
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But not everyone is resisting. Two two longtime Republican operatives at the center of the party establishment, Ed Rollins and Ron Kaufman, signaled their support for the billionaire businessman last week. The Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed calls for a third-party conservative challenger last week.
That survey showed about three-quarters of Republicans — 72 percent — now accept Trump as their presidential nominee.