Trump curveballs give Congress whiplash

President Trump's mixed messaging is increasingly throwing a curveball into negotiations on Capitol Hill, leaving lawmakers struggling to keep up with his changing opinions.

The president this week reversed course on a bipartisan health-care deal, first encouraging Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate gears up for Green New Deal vote Overnight Health Care — Presented by the American Conservative Union — ObamaCare enrollment dips slightly to 11.4M signups for 2019 | Dem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions | House to hold hearing on surprise medical bills House Dems to hold hearing on preventing surprise medical bills MORE (R-Tenn.) in private to negotiate a deal, then coming out against the agreement and seemingly stopping it cold.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Trump UN pick donated to GOP members on Senate Foreign Relations panel Scott Walker considering running for Wisconsin governor or Senate: report MORE (R-Wis.), asked about the president’s shifting stance, said Trump would have to speak for himself because he was “just trying to get results” before darting into a GOP lunch.

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Later, as he left the meeting, Johnson was asked if Trump’s comments made it harder to get “results.”

“It’s always best to have a consistent message,” he said.

Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidySenators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills Five things to watch for in Trump's 2020 budget Overnight Health Care - Presented by Kidney Care Partners - FDA chief Scott Gottlieb resigns | House Dems to take up drug pricing bills next week | Planned Parenthood, doctors group sue over Trump abortion rule MORE (R-La.) noted he had an “extremely good” working relationship with the White House on his proposal to overhaul ObamaCare by turning its subsidies and Medicaid expansion into block grants for states, but he also said it was easier to have everyone on the same page

“Obviously you want your side to know exactly what you can give and not give, right?” he said.

It was just the latest example in what’s become a familiar cycle on Capitol Hill: Senators believe they and Trump are on the same page, only to find out — sometimes hours later and frequently through tweets — that the president has changed his mind.

After throwing a celebration on the White House lawn after the House approved its ObamaCare repeal bill, Trump weeks later called the legislation “mean.”

Graham, asked at the time about the comments, said, “If you're looking for political cover from the White House, I'm not sure they're going to give it to you.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote MORE (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down MORE (R-Wis.) were left flat-footed when Trump agreed with Democrats on a three-month government funding and debt-ceiling deal in September, even though GOP leadership wanted a longer 18-month agreement.

Trump has also shifted and shifted again in his message on the Obama-era the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program shielding certain young immigrants from deportation, frustrating Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed a victory last month after a closed-door meeting at the White House. Congress’s top Democrats believed they had gotten the president to agree to work on a deal that would attach a DACA fix to border security, but not funding for Trump’s wall on the southern border.

Instead, the administration released a seven-page list of immigration principles that demanded funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, as well as more resources to catch individuals residing in the country illegally, and a merit-based system that would overhaul the green card program and limit so-called chain migration.

Schumer, referring to the demands as Trump’s “list of horribles,” labeled the president the “obstructionist in chief.”

“He's the obstructionist in chief because he can't stick to a position,” Schumer told reporters, in one of several speeches this week knocking Trump for flip flopping. “This president cannot govern if, whenever the hard right frightens him and says jump, he says how high.”

Republicans are publicly much less critical of Trump’s curveballs, even as they acknowledge hearing different things.

Asked how leadership could get members to buy in to negotiations if Trump was going to reverse his position, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 MORE (R-Texas) said that “the president’s expressed himself in different ways at different times, so I’m not sure exactly sure what the White House position is” on the deal Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, negotiated with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by the American Conservative Union — ObamaCare enrollment dips slightly to 11.4M signups for 2019 | Dem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions | House to hold hearing on surprise medical bills House Dems to hold hearing on preventing surprise medical bills Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' MORE (Wash.), the panel's ranking Democrat.

The struggle for both ends of Capitol Hill to get on the same page comes days after Trump and McConnell held an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden aimed at stressing they were working together.

With the first unified government in a decade, Republicans are struggling to score legislative victories amid growing frustration from their conservative base.

Trump is increasingly kicking major issues to Congress, setting up a legislative cliff at the end of the year that could include a government shutdown, a push to crack down on Iran and lingering battles over health care and immigration.

“The more standard route is for the administration to lay out, for instance on health care ... a series of bullet points at the minimum, or a full bill. That's typically the way things would work. So, yeah, it's a very different way of governing and I think it's one of the reasons you've seen the results to be what they are,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.) told The Associated Press.

Trump frequently weighs in on the Senate’s rules on social media, often urging McConnell to get rid of the 60-vote filibuster. And he’s shown that he will pass the blame to lawmakers when the party isn’t able to make good on major campaign promises.

“We’re not getting the job done, and I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest, they are not getting the job done,” Trump said this week.