Trump Opts Against Making Immigration Demand of McConnell

President skips lines in prepared speech — despite White House releasing them beforehand to the press

President Donald Trump greets Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after Trump addressed a luncheon at the House and Senate Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on February 1, 2018. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., also appears. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump opted against publicly pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the White House’s immigration overhaul framework as the legislation the chamber takes up during a possible coming floor debate.

The White House released excerpts of the president’s prepared remarks as he arrived in West Virginia, where Trump traveled Thursday to speak to congressional Republicans at their annual strategy retreat. Notably, it included a portion of the prepared speech in which the president was slated to press McConnell to try to advance the administration’s immigration “framework.”

But when the president arrived at that section of his remarks, he began to read the portion that had been previously released to the press before apparently calling an audible.

The president, according to the excerpts the White House released, was supposed to say this:

“Nearly seven in 10 Americans support an immigration reform package that includes a permanent solution on DACA, secures the border, ends chain migration, and cancels the visa lottery. These are the four pillars of the White House framework — a plan that will finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.

“I know that the Senate is planning to bring an immigration bill to the floor in the coming weeks, and I am asking today that the framework we submitted be the bill that the Senate votes on.”

But in person, Trump did not read that, avoiding a public, in-person demand of McConnell. A White House spokesperson has yet to respond to an inquiry seeking comment on why.

Trump Touts Party Unity, Year One Accomplishments in Speech to GOP Retreat

Instead, Trump appeared to begin reading that part of the prepared speech, saying, “I know that the Senate is planning to bring an immigration on the floor, to the floor in the coming weeks. And I’m asking that the framework that we submitted, with great flexibility, great flexibility.”

He glanced back at GOP leaders positioned behind his podium. He glanced at the TelePrompter.

“Working with both parties, that something very positive will come out of it, for our country, for everybody, for our country,” he said. “I think that can happen. If the Democrats choose to filibuster a framework that includes a generous path to citizenship or something that is not fair, we are not going to approve it.

“So we’ll either have something that’s fair and equitable and secure, or we’re going to have nothing at all,” Trump said. “It doesn’t make sense, however to have nothing at all because this is something that people want. Well be demonstrating that we are very, very serious.”

But he never uttered the lines his own staff made public.

Otherwise, Trump used the bulk of his remarks to review his first year in office and take GOP members along on a victory lap.

“I really think this is just the beginning,” saying Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisc., called him recently to say he has “never, ever seen the Republican Party so united, so in link with each other.”

“There is a great coming together that I don’t think either party has seen in many, many years,” Trump said despite clear signs the party’s various factions have deep differences on immigration and other issues, like how much federal money to devote to an infrastructure upgrade package.

He made a point to give “kudos” to all the Republican members in the room, heaping particular praise on GOP leaders — “especially in that last month,” a reference to December, when GOP members passed a massive tax package he signed into law on Dec. 23.

“They were able to act under tremendous pressure,” Trump said. “I give everyone in this room, really, kudos.”

Why Does Congress ‘Retreat?’

As he did earlier on Twitter, Trump also questioned whether Democrats really want to pass an immigration bill. He also worked in a dig at his 2016 general election foe, Hillary Clinton.

He jabbed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., over her critique that the GOP’s tax cuts would only out “crumbs” back in people’s pockets.

Pelosi called it crumbs when people are getting $3000 and $2,000 and $1,000” in tax relief, he said. “That’s not crumbs, that’s a lot of money.” He compared Pelosi’s remark to Clinton labeling his supporters “deplorables” during the campaign — his way of suggesting both Democrats are out of touch with average Americans.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill returned fire. 

“What’s deplorable is Republicans’ desperate effort to hide the multi-billion dollar corporate windfalls of the GOP tax scam behind a handful of meager, one-time bonuses. The casual dishonesty of taking Leader Pelosi’s words out of context is nothing compared to the dishonesty of Republicans’ sales pitch on their tax scam itself. Polling shows the American people recognized the GOP tax scam for exactly what it is. Republicans have been caught red-handed enriching their wealthy corporate donors at the expense of working families,” he said in a statement. 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.