Trump’s 10 biggest allies in Congress

Trump’s 10 biggest allies in Congress
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Republican lawmakers and other political heavyweights are scrambling to jump on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE’s bandwagon a month out from Inauguration Day, but the president-elect may wonder how many of them are true friends.

When the House Trump Caucus met on the fourth floor of the Cannon Office Building two weeks ago, some 50 lawmakers attended.

But only a handful of those members were there from the beginning.

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“We could have met in a phone booth when we first started. Literally we were laughed at,” said Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaGOP Senate hopefuls reluctant to back McConnell as leader Trump gives Barletta edge in crowded Pa. primary Trump sells tax reform with trucker backdrop in Pennsylvania MORE (R-Pa.), a founding member of the Trump Caucus. 

Trump, who is known for placing a high value on loyalty, will likely turn to some his early backers to take his agenda to Congress.

Here are 10 of Trump’s biggest allies on Capitol Hill: 

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)

Collins is co-chairman of the House Trump Caucus and was the first member of Congress to endorse him.

He was Trump’s first congressional advocate on television and spent many votes on the House floor explaining to colleagues why Trump could and would win the presidential election.

“All the other members would come up and say, ‘Are you crazy? What are you thinking?’ ” he said, recounting his conversations with colleagues early in the campaign. “I became his champion on the House floor, explaining my thought process, and was able to get the converts and people who said, ‘I hadn’t thought about that.’ ” 

After defeating Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE, Trump named Collins as the congressional liaison of the Trump transition team and tapped him to serve on the transition’s executive committee.

Collins says he wants to continue to play an intermediary role between the new administration and rank-and-file members of Congress, improving relations between the branches that lawmakers say suffered under President Obama.  

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)

Hunter is the other co-chairman of the Trump Caucus. He urged GOP colleagues earlier this year to “toughen up” when they were wringing their hands over Trump’s chances of beating Clinton in the fall.

Hunter, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was one of the few members of Congress to defend Trump after the release of the “Access Hollywood” video, calling characterizations of Trump as a sexual predator “completely unfair.” 

When The Washington Post interviewed him in October as a lonely inhabitant “on the shrinking island of Donald Trump political backers,” Hunter insisted he was not wavering in his support. 

“We need to do what’s right for the nation. Period,” he said. 

Hunter’s name was floated last month as a potential candidate for a number of high-level national security positions.

Reps. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and Tom Marino (R-Pa.)

Barletta was the fourth member of Congress to endorse Trump, and he and Marino were founding members of the Trump Caucus.

They played a prominent role in spearheading Trump’s campaign efforts in their blue-leaning home state of Pennsylvania, where Clinton was leading by about 2 percentage points in the polls before Election Day. 

The Trump campaign nicknamed the duo “Thunder and Lighting.”

Barletta is a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee and is gathering the resumes of aspirants hoping to serve in the new administration and making recommendations on appointments.

As a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he expects to play a central role next year in convincing GOP colleagues to fully meet Trump’s big infrastructure plans.

Trump set out a $1 trillion investment goal during the campaign, but some Republicans in Congress — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Ky.) — are balking at that number as a budget buster, especially if its cost is not offset.  

“I talked to President-elect Trump about this when I went to New York,” he said. “My family was in the road construction business, so I’ve been a strong believer from the beginning.” 

“When there’s a lot of infrastructure work, people will make good money,” he added. “That money goes right into the local economy. They don’t save it.”

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care: Initial Senate tax bill doesn't repeal ObamaCare mandate | 600K sign up for ObamaCare in first four days | Feds crack down on opioid trafficking Overnight Finance: Senate GOP unveils different approach on tax reform | House tax bill heads to floor | House leaders eye vote next week | AT&T denies pressure for CNN sale GOP tax bill clears hurdle, heads to House floor MORE (R-Texas) 

Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has jurisdiction over three of Trump’s biggest policy priorities — tax reform, healthcare reform and trade deal renegotiation — and has demonstrated an early willingness to work closely with the incoming administration. 

Brady is taking the lead in drafting tax reform and, like Trump, wants to shrink the number of tax brackets, lower rates and simplify the code. 

He would keep popular deductions for home mortgages and charitable giving, ideas backed by Trump to a degree. While Trump wants to preserve these popular tax breaks, he also wants to cap the total amount that individuals and families may deduct at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively.

On the trade front, Brady has promised to work with Trump to strengthen enforcement of trade deals to ensure foreign partners fulfill their obligations.

“It's just not enough to buy American. We have to sell American all throughout the world," Brady told Reuters last month. "These trade agreements, done right, strictly enforced, level that playing field." 

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump's Twitter lockout raises safeguard concerns Anti-pyramid scheme legislation is necessary to protect consumers from fraud Former Tennessee rep enters race for Corker's Senate seat MORE (R-Tenn.)

Blackburn is a vice chairwoman on the transition team. She appeared regularly as a Trump surrogate on television during the campaign and has served as an important liaison to women. 

She defended him from charges of sexism by arguing that women voters were more concerned about jobs and national security, and more recently has touted his commitment to giving women senior posts in the administration. 

As a member of two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees — the Health Subcommittee and the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee — Blackburn will have a role in next year’s healthcare reform and trade debates.

She was rumored to be in the mix for a Cabinet position last month and has advocated downsizing the federal bureaucracy by consolidating agencies, such as merging the Environmental Protection Agency with the Department of Energy. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)

Cramer, another member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is one of the architects of Trump’s energy platform. 

He worked closely with Trump before he delivered his major energy address in May at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, N.D., where the president-elect laid out his “America First” plan.

Trump promised to make “American energy dominance” a strategic economic and foreign policy goal and to make the country independent of the need to import oil from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. 

“Kevin Cramer very early on was very strong on energy. When Trump visited North Dakota and gave his energy speech, Kevin Cramer was part and parcel of that,” Collins said.

Sens. Tom CottonTom CottonOvernight Finance: GOP criticism of tax bill grows, but few no votes | Highlights from day two of markup | House votes to overturn joint-employer rule | Senate panel approves North Korean banking sanctions GOP senator: CBO moving the goalposts on ObamaCare mandate Cruz: It’s a mistake for House bill to raise taxes MORE (R-Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottKey differences between the Senate and House tax plans Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win Senate GOP reveals different approach on tax reform MORE (R-S.C.)

Trump has significantly less vocal support in the Senate than in the House. His biggest backer in the upper chamber was Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE (R-Ala.), a forceful advocate for limiting immigration and cracking down on illegal residents. 

With Sessions nominated to serve as attorney general, Cotton and Scott are poised to emerge as Trump’s most dependable Senate allies. 

Cotton attended at least one early meeting of the House Trump Caucus, said one House GOP aide, and defended him at the height of the controversy over the “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump can be heard making lewd comments about women.

And he argues that waterboarding — which Trump has supported — isn’t torture. 

Scott, a vice chairman on Trump’s transition team, is the Senate’s only African-American Republican and a potential liaison between the incoming president and predominantly black communities, which Trump has pledged to rebuild. Trump received less than 8 percent support from black voters, according to exit polls. 

Scott criticized Clinton during the campaign for characterizing some criminal offenders as “superpredators” in the early ‘90s, a comment that was seen as aimed at young African-American men, and for soaring jail populations during her husband’s administration.

He urged evangelical Christians to vote for Trump during the Values Voter Summit in September and didn’t shy away after Trump’s graphic comments about women surfaced.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell A bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate Collins, Manchin to serve as No Labels co-chairs MORE (D-W.Va.)

Manchin is a Democrat who supported Clinton in the general election, but he is expected to emerge as a pivotal Trump ally in the next Congress.

Manchin says he’s already spoken to Trump more times since the election than he has spoken with President Obama over the last eight years.

He was under consideration to serve in Trump’s Cabinet but recently announced he plans to stay in the Senate.

“My job as a senator is to do everything I can to help him,” the native West Virginian said on “Fox and Friends” this month. “And if I do disagree — respectfully disagree — I’m not calling people names.”

Manchin is running for reelection in 2018 in a state that Trump won with a greater percentage of the vote than in any other state.