© Stefani Reynolds
Republican candidates in several key Senate races are keeping their distance from President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE's pledge to end birthright citizenship by executive order, even as he's doubled down on the issue in the final week of the midterm election.
GOP Senate candidates say they share Trump's frustration with the broader immigration system while generally dodging on specifics about changing birthright citizenship, a concept based on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE (R), who is running to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donating unused campaign funds to Arizona nonprofit focused on elections: report Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report MORE (R) in Arizona, said Wednesday she appreciates that Trump is "trying to highlight the abuses and the failures of our border security and our immigration system."
But when asked on local radio station KTAR if she agreed with Trump about ending birthright citizenship and using an executive order to do it, she demurred.
"In this case, if we secured our border, if we strengthened our immigration laws, if we closed the loopholes that are being taken advantage of right now we wouldn't even have this conversation," she said.
Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada MORE (R-Nev.), when asked if he supported ending birthright citizenship and if he thought Trump could use an executive order to do it, similarly emphasized taking broader action on immigration.
“This issue is a symptom of the larger problems we are facing. The reason we keep having this immigration discussion is because we have not passed immigration reform," Heller said in a statement sent to The Hill.
Heller instead attempted to put blame on Democrats for Congress's inability to pass immigration or border security legislation, saying he understands "the president’s frustration on immigration and border security because I am frustrated too.”
Trump this week reignited a fight over birthright citizenship as he leans into hardline immigration rhetoric in an attempt to drive out his base voters ahead of the midterm election on Tuesday, when control of Congress hangs in the balance.
The president raised the issue in interview with Axios that was released Tuesday, saying he believes he could nix birthright citizenship with an executive order.
Legal experts have said using an executive order to limit birthright citizenship to children of U.S. citizens and legal resident runs afoul of the 14th Amendment, which says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Some vulnerable House incumbents, as well as Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.), broke from Trump on the issue this week. Trump responded by lashing out at Ryan on Wednesday, writing on Twitter that Ryan "should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!”
Though the fight for the House includes Republican running in more moderate or blue districts, the battle for the Senate is largely taking place in red states won by Trump in 2016. And GOP Senate candidates have been less likely to break with Trump, whose base they will need if they want to win next week.
Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in a state won by Trump in 2016. In several of those races, GOP candidates have either been silent, noncommittal or sidestepped questions about whether Trump can end birthright citizenship or if they would support a proposal halting it.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) walked away from a reporter's question on Tuesday when asked about birthright citizenship, though an aide said he didn't hear the question. Scott said in a separate statement that he would need to review the proposal.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (D-Mo.), told the Kansas City Star that "of course" the president couldn't change the constitution with an executive order, but that he hadn't seen Trump's proposal.
Hawley didn't directly say during a separate conference call with reporters on Wednesday if he supports ending birthright citizenship, but said it could "maybe" be done by executive order, according to The Washington Examiner.
And Mike Braun, the GOP Senate candidate in Indiana, said during a debate against Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (D-Ind.) on Tuesday that birthright citizenship and other issues "have accumulated over a long period of time."
Neither Attorney General Patrick Morrisey nor Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Lobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE, the Republican Senate candidates in West Virginia and North Dakota, respectively, have weighed in on Trump's citizenship rhetoric.
In addition to Arizona and Nevada, Democrats are also hoping to flip Tennessee, where GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R) is retiring.
Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenator asks Facebook's Zuckerberg to testify at hearing on kids' safety TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat executives to testify at Senate hearing on kids' safety Buttigieg hits back after parental leave criticism: 'Really strange' MORE (R-Tenn.), who is running to succeed Corker, said Wednesday that she didn't think Trump could change birthright citizenship through executive order.