GOP Republicans return to work with Trump wish list in mind
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican majority in Congress was on a glide path to the midterms, having passed tax cuts into law and backed off budget battles with a year-end funding package. But President Trump was not impressed.
Trump has been picking apart some GOP accomplishments, including the big budget bill, and complaining that others, namely his border wall, remained undone.
Congress returned today scrambling over a to-do list that will satisfy a president Republicans desperately need to be promoting their achievements, not undermining them, as they prepare to hit the campaign trail.
"A lot of members would prefer to spend the rest of the year focusing on getting re-elected, but there's pressure from the White House ... to deliver more policy wins before facing voters," said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist.
On Monday, the Senate swore in its newest member, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi. Hyde-Smith was tapped by the Mississippi governor as the first woman in Congress to represent the state, filling the seat after longtime GOP Sen. Thad Cochran resigned.
Later, Democrat Conor Lamb will take his seat Thursday in the House after a long-shot special election win in western Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers also learned Monday they have limited room to maneuver after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said annual deficits will skyrocket close to $1 trillion in coming years after passage of the tax and spending bills.
But Trump's penchant for belittling lawmakers and badgering them to work doesn't help instill voter confidence in Republicans already facing an enthusiasm gap with Democrats fired up to go to the polls, strategists say. They need Trump on their side, not piling on.
"Every day that Trump attacks Congress, he hurts Republicans' chance of keeping the majority," Conant said.
The problems between Trump and Congress, festering for months, spilled into the open when the president toyed with vetoing the $1.3 trillion funding bill he thought spent too much money on Democratic priorities and not enough on his, including the border wall.