Republicans senators, at least publicly, put on a confident face while President Trump met with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — without any Republican lawmakers — at the White House as Congress scrambles to avoid a government shutdown, even as it was reported that they were privately worried the two native New Yorkers would cut a deal without them.
“I might feel better if the Speaker [Paul Ryan (R-WI)] were going over too, or the majority leader [Mitch McConnell (R-KY)],” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) admitted, when asked if he was concerned Hill Republicans might get rolled by Trump and Schumer negotiating. “It might be a more efficient way of getting everyone to yes.”
Otherwise he called the meeting a “positive step.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said he wasn’t worried. Cotton last week showed up at a meeting where Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, surprising Democrats who were unaware the immigration hawk had been invited.
“Maybe the President will talk some sense into Senator Schumer and the Democrats to not shut down the government over amnesty for illegal immigrants,” Cotton said Friday.
“This President is a big boy, he can take care of himself,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who joined Cotton in helping scuttle the immigration deal last week.
Senate Democrats, and some Republicans, have said they won’t support a month-long spending bill the House passed Thursday evening because there has not been a deal made on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration program for young people brought to the country illegally as children that Trump rescinded last year. They’re proposing an extremely short-term bill that would keep the government open for a matter of days while they hash out an agreement on codifying the DACA program legislatively.
Not surprisingly, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) — who crafted the bipartisan deal that was rejected by Trump and who joins Democrats in opposing the House spending bill — cheered the Schumer-Trump meeting.
“I am very glad that the minority leader and the President are talking. The American people appreciate this kind of interaction,” he said. “Unlike some of my Republican colleagues, I am glad this is happening and I have a lot of confidence in President Trump.”
Trump — who has shown an indifference to the nuance of policy and a habit of flip-flopping in his stances — has caught Republicans off guard in his negotiations with Democrats in the past. Last year, he undercut Ryan’s and McConnell’s position in spending negotiations by immediately signing on to plan presented by Democratic leaders.
According to Politico, the White House has told Hill Republicans that Trump is merely hearing Schumer out, and no agreements will be made during the meeting.
“I hope it’s a fruitful discussion that will help break the logjam,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led a government shutdown in 2013, was asked how he felt about the meeting being one-on-one.
“We’ll see,” he shrugged.
Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.