By REMA RAHMAN and JOHN T. BENNETT
Some House and Senate Republicans are blaming an erratic Trump White House for getting in the way of advancing their shared legislative agenda, saying the constant noise from the West Wing makes it nearly impossible to get things done.
Asked if a large portion of the Republican caucus has lost patience with President Donald Trump’s unpredictable ways, one GOP senator replied: “Yeah — it’s just endless chaos.”
“We’ve all ... said to them (Trump and White House officials): ‘Stop tweeting. Go through channels,’” said the senator, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “But nothing seems to help.”
Rep. Mark Sanford said the notion came up at a GOP conference meeting of House Republicans Friday morning, hours after the Senate failed to muster a key win to repeal the 2010 health care law, which Trump said he was willing to sign — no matter what it was.
“The icing on the cake in this instance is tied to the fact that there’s a level of conversation coming out of the White House the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before,” the South Carolina Republican said. “As a consequence, not only do you have the normal impediments to legislative change but you’ve got additional impediments that are self-created within the White House that impede the president’s ability to lead.”
Members of Trump’s own party are increasingly at their wit’s end with him and his team, which now includes the blunt-speaking, elbow-throwing former Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci.
“It has an impact on the agenda,” the GOP senator told Roll Call on Thursday.
Sanford said of the White House: “that which is weird is getting weirder.” He also said endless noise was not addressing any issues that impact every day people.
“That’s oddly enough what Trump was elected to get around,” Sanford said. “Let’s get to the bottom, let’s break through this stuff, let’s produce results but the intra-White House warfare is in fact an impediment to doing so.”
That also creates roadblocks when it comes to Congress working in a bipartisan fashion.
“Part of it is his low popularity. As long as he remains in the high 30s, it’s going to be tough to get Democrats to come over,” the senator said, referring to Trump’s approval ratings. “You can have the [GOP] base, but that doesn’t move red-state Democrats.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in recent days has defended Trump and his team when asked about what even GOP lawmakers call chaos inside the West Wing.
Trump is “very committed to a robust agenda and changing America for the better,” she said Wednesday. “And Republicans have both the House and Senate — he’s hoping they’ll join him in pushing forward a lot of the policies that most of those people campaigned on.”
Last Friday, Sanders flatly denied there is any chaos inside Trump’s White House.
“I don’t see it as chaotic,” she said. “You want to see chaos ... you should come to my house early in the morning when my three kids are running around. That’s chaos. This is not.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan took to a Wisconsin radio show this week to voice his frustration with constant attention on an investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible ties to Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin.
“The frustrating thing for House members is, it’s Russia this, it’s Russia that, it’s tweet this, tweet that, it’s wall-to-wall coverage and countdown clocks of what I would call distracting issues and not the issues we’re actually focused and working on.”
Ryan routinely brushes off questions about Trump’s tweets at his weekly press conferences in the Capitol, sometimes laughing them off before reporters are done asking a question, saying he won’t comment on things president says on the social media network.
Some Republican lawmakers have griped that Trump is too focused on all matters related to Russia and not engaged enough in pushing his policy agenda.
To that end, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., described the president and White House officials as “non-existent” as lawmakers worked out a final bill that would slap new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
But Corker laughed when he told a reporter that he had just advised the panel’s ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin of Maryland, to “be careful what you wish for” when Cardin had commented it would have been nice to have more White House input.
Further not helping matters is Trump’s near constant berating of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fervent supporter of the president during his campaign and whom Trump plucked from the Senate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Trump’s bullying of Sessions isn’t sitting well with senators and the “conservative world.” The South Carolina Republican told CNN there would be “holy hell to pay” if the president fired the Alabama Republican.