GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE’s attacks on four minority Democratic lawmakers have created a rift in the GOP, putting many Republicans on the defensive.

Most are seeking to steer clear of the firestorm, but a few GOP lawmakers came out against Trump’s suggestion that the four women of color “go back” to their home countries, even though all are U.S. citizens.

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One of the strongest denunciations came from Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Democrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony Romney: Trump requesting Biden investigation from China, Ukraine 'wrong and appalling' MORE (Texas), the only African American House Republican, whose district has a large number of Hispanic residents. He blasted Trump’s tweets as “racist” and “xenophobic” in a CNN interview.

He called the president’s remarks “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Rand Paul: 'We deserve to know' identity of Trump whistleblower Bottom Line MORE (S.C.), the lone African American Republican in the Senate, characterized Trump’s language as “unacceptable” and “racially offensive.”

The president’s comments also drew rebukes from GOP lawmakers facing tough reelection campaigns.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine), who is seeking another term in a state that voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJill Stein: 'I am not a Russian spy' Trump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' MORE in 2016, urged Trump to delete his tweets attacking the Democratic lawmakers and implying they’re not real Americans.

“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus … but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down,” Collins said in a statement.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) said Trump was “wrong” to say the four Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Omar endorses Sanders presidential bid MORE (Mass.) — go back to the countries where they are from.

“Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine,” Toomey said.

But other GOP lawmakers were more timid in their efforts to steer Trump away from stoking racial resentment.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens MORE (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, spent Sunday golfing with the president. He urged Trump to focus on the policies of his political opponents instead of engaging in personal attacks.

“We don’t need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies,” he said on “Fox & Friends.”

Asked if Trump went too far, Graham responded: “They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”

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But Trump appeared not to take such pushback as much of a rebuke. In a Rose Garden ceremony Monday afternoon, he argued that Graham was in some ways harsher on the minority Democratic lawmakers criticized by the president because Graham called them “a bunch of communists.”

For many Republicans, Trump’s heated rhetoric on Twitter has become akin to a recurring weekend migraine that causes lawmakers pain early in the week but then soon dissipates.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens McConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake' MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday declined to comment on Trump’s language, telling reporters he would be happy to take their questions on Tuesday, when he usually holds a weekly press conference.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump slams 'very dumb' O'Rourke for proposals on guns, tax exempt status for churches GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Succession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, said, “What the president said was a mistake, and it was an unforced error.”

While GOP lawmakers were careful to say they didn’t approve of Trump’s behavior or language, most stopped short of condemning it as racist — doing so would open them up to criticism from Trump’s loyal base.

Democrats have been quick to accuse them of silently condoning the president’s conduct.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' Democrats vow to push for repeal of other Trump rules after loss on power plant rollback MORE (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor said Trump’s comments “drip with racism” and asked whether GOP lawmakers were staying quiet about “xenophobic” comments “out of embarrassment or agreement.”

“Many of my Republican colleagues let these moments sail by without saying even a word. The Republican leadership especially rarely criticizes the president directly, even in a situation like this that so clearly merits it,” he said.

Schumer warned that if Republicans are overlooking racist behavior to advance their agenda of tax cuts and deregulation, they’re “making a deal with the devil.”

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (Mo.), a member of the elected Senate GOP leadership, took a similar tack to Graham’s.

“Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics,” he said of the four Democratic lawmakers.

“There is plenty to say about how destructive House Democrats’ policies would be for our economy, our health care system and our security. I think that’s where the focus should be,” Blunt said.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Farmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE (Iowa), another member of the GOP leadership team, said Trump’s tweets are “not constructive” and “not helpful.”

Like Graham, she said Trump should focus on policies.

“I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about. That’s what we should be focusing on,” said Ernst, who is up for reelection next year.

Pressed by reporters on whether she thought Trump’s comments were racist, Ernst said, “Yeah, I do.”

Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisHouse conservatives attempt to access closed-door impeachment hearing GOP lawmakers, states back gunmaker in Sandy Hook appeal Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Md.) accused Democrats of using any excuse to play the race card against Trump.

“No, they’re not, they’re obviously not racist,” Harris told WBAL’s Bryan Nehman when asked about Trump’s Sunday tweets. “But again, when anyone disagrees with someone now the default is to call them racist, and this is no exception.”

One major question for McConnell and Republican leaders is whether they will put a resolution disapproving of Trump’s language on the Senate floor.

Pelosi announced in a letter to colleagues Monday that the House plans to vote on such a resolution soon and send it to the Senate.

“The House cannot allow the President’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets,” she wrote.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Trump tweets ad hitting Romney as 'Democrat secret asset' Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump MORE (R-Utah), a frequent Trump critic, stopped short of calling the tweets racist but indicated that he would consider voting for a resolution of disapproval if it came to the floor.

“If that were to come, people know where I stand,” he said.

“My own view is that what he said, and what was tweeted, was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly, it was very wrong,” Romney told reporters.