Tensions linger between Trump and GOP lawmakers

Tensions linger between Trump and GOP lawmakers
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President Trump tried to defuse tensions during a meeting with Republican senators at the White House Wednesday, but lawmakers said there was still an edge in the meeting.

Trump ratcheted up the pressure on one moderate Republican holdout, Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerPoll: Dems lead in Indiana, West Virginia Senate races, tied in Nevada Poll:Majority of voters say health care 'very important' to them in midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (R-Nev.), by sitting next to him at the lunch meeting and joking to him about wanting to “remain a senator.”

But Trump also warned that “any senator who votes against debate says you are fine with ObamaCare.”


Lawmakers said Trump’s humor had an edge and while he tried to appear solicitous, he couldn’t help jabbing some of his opponents.

Trump was courteous to Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (R-Utah), who announced Monday he would vote to block the Senate healthcare bill, sinking it for the time being, by asking Lee to describe his concerns with the legislation, according to lawmakers who attended.

But he also knocked Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen MORE (R-Kan.), who joined Lee in announcing his opposition, by claiming that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback liked the Senate bill, according to one senator who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting.

Trump conducted the meeting with an air of jocularity and courtesy but some lawmakers detected an undercurrent of impatience with the slow pace of getting major legislation passed through Congress.

“The president, he always expresses his personality at these meetings. He has some fun with our members but he is also very serious about getting a result,” said a second senator who attended the meeting.

The lawmaker said Trump’s jokes were meant to send a message to the holdouts: Find a way to get to yes.

“It’s designed to encourage people to figure how to solve the problem,” the source said.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who had dinner with Trump and a small group of senators Monday, said the president expects results as quickly as when he formerly headed a major real estate development company.

“The president, he likes to operate at the speed of business, not the speed of government,” he said. “He wants to see results.”

Trump complained at Monday’s dinner about lawmakers touting their opposition to the GOP healthcare reform bill on television without playing a more constructive role in negotiations.

At Monday’s dinner, Trump discussed the idea of getting rid of the legislative filibuster, an idea that is broadly unpopular within the Senate Republican conference but has a few proponents, mainly among more junior senators such as Daines.

The president turned the screws in a less amiable way Wednesday by telling senators they should not leave town for the August recess without finishing their work on healthcare.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Ky.) cancelled the first two weeks of the annual August recess after Trump tweeted “I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!”

That decision was unpopular with many senators and staff. Calling for the entire recess to be scrapped if the Senate fails to pass a healthcare bill over which the conference is deeply divided is likely to sour feelings further.

But Trump tried to keep the mood positive Wednesday after a round of finger pointing Tuesday in which White House officials blamed McConnell for not getting the job done and senators criticized the president for not playing a more constructive role.

“He was in full listening mode,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.).

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Defense: Trump shifts tone on Saudis | New pressure from lawmakers | Trump: 'Certainly looks' like Khashoggi dead | Pompeo gives Saudis days to wrap up investigation | Trump threatens military action on border to stop migrants Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Tenn.) described it as “very upbeat meeting” and a “very respectful discussion about some of the issues that are remaining.”