Political News

Republicans scramble to understand if Trump just sunk their immigration effort

Posted June 15, 2018 1:16 p.m. EDT

— House Republicans were in full-on damage control Friday morning as they sought to downplay President Donald Trump's comments that he wouldn't support the GOP compromise bill.

After toiling away for weeks on a hard-fought compromise bill that tackled border security and even delivered Trump his campaign promise of a border wall, Republican aides and members involved in the discussions were taken aback by the President's impromptu interview with Fox News on the White House lawn where Trump insinuated he wouldn't support a bill that had been negotiated with his administration's involvement. Many members were desperate to believe that the President had either been referring to another bill or would reverse course later in the day -- while conservatives cheered the President as rightfully demanding changes to the bill.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a moderate Republican from Florida told reporters that he was confident Trump would sign the legislation.

"I think it's important for everybody to take a deep breath, look at the bill, judge it on its merits, not what people are saying about the bill," Diaz-Balart said.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington, said that he hoped Trump would clarify his statement soon, but that the discharge petition, a procedural measure that could force a vote on immigration legislation and bypass leaders was always an option.

"We'll get a clarification from the White House and I hope that's the case, because the compromise legislation as you guys know, covers almost every single thing the President and the administration really wants," Newhouse said.

Trump did follow up his remarks with a tweet later Friday, but it's not clear if his latest remarks would do anything to clarify where he stands on the compromise legislation.

"The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!" Trump tweeted.

In addition to repeating a false claim blaming Democrats for his own policy, Trump articulated desires that are all contained in the negotiated legislation, as well as the more conservative option.

Mark Walker, the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told CNN that he believed Trump's earlier comments were not necessarily definitive.

"With the text just coming out (Thursday) who knows what kind of full briefing there has been on it. I think the part of it he will like is the trigger mechanism that if the appropriation, funding and the spending on the wall is not delivered on then there is no other part of the bill," Walker said.

The confusion engulfed the House chamber during the last vote series of the week and was emblematic of an exercise that members have managed before during tax reform and health care where Trump famously held a celebration of an Obamacare repeal bill in the White House Rose Garden only to turn around and call the bill "mean" later.

"He keeps us all excited about how we are going to get things done," Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican from Florida and supporter of the compromise bill, told CNN.

Conservatives, meanwhile, said the President was rightly demanding more aggressive measures. Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said the President was right to voice opposition to the compromise bill and said he hopes Trump doesn't walk back his statement.

"I think he's correctly gauging where the American people are on the issue and informing the legislature that they've got to go back and do some more work," Perry said.

Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was adamant the President was not confused about which bill he was talking about.

"That is not accurate," he said.