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 AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown 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 JohnsonHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval Last-minute deal extends program to protect chemical plants TSA absences raise stakes in shutdown fight 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 CassidyMnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Acosta mocked for border reporting: 'Exactly – walls work!' 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 McConnellOcasio-Cortez rips Trump in first House floor speech: 'It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want' Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Supporters leave notes on plaque outside Ocasio-Cortez's office MORE (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments 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 SchumerCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Government shutdown impasse is a leveraging crisis Overnight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions 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 CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 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: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Bold, bipartisan action on child care will win plenty of friends GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses 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 CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer 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.