The reviews are in from the Republicans’ train wreck of a retreat in West Virginia, and it sounds like they enjoyed the actual train wreck on the way there more.
Even though Trump gave a speech to all the Republican members of the House and Senate praising an overwhelming sense of unity, it was little more than hot air.
He gave his speech and then immediately left without taking questions, which is the normal chain of events. He left Republicans scratching their heads on where that unity would come from, as Trump gave no indication on how he planned to solve any of the challenges facing the party.
Reports from retreat attendees are bleak. Republicans found no consensus on a way forward on immigration, raising the debt ceiling, or infrastructure.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) described the party’s avoidance of talking about difficult issues perfectly.
He likened it to a “a dysfunctional family. Dad’s drunk again but we don’t talk about it.”
Republicans left the retreat today and headed back to Washington to face a daunting slate of legislative tasks. They have to keep the government from shutting down next week, and if they manage to do that, their reward is a bitter fight over immigration.
Lawmakers are split on whether to take a comprehensive or a more surgical, individual approach to immigration. Some Republicans see a way forward only if the reform focuses on one or two things at a time, like DACA or a border wall. Others say a one- or two-pronged approach is a nonstarter, that it’s all or nothing.
Doesn’t look like favorable terms to start out negotiations with.
Upper level Trump administration officials are getting tired of this back and forth. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urged Republicans to get it together and find a way to fund the government long term to allow the military to function properly.
Republicans fought over just about everything. They disagreed about immigration. They’re going to put Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan at risk, too. There almost certainly won’t be 60 votes necessary to pass a possible gas tax to pay for it.
Nor will there be 60 votes for Paul Ryan’s pet project: entitlement reform, or as he euphemistically calls it, “workforce development.”
The frustration was palpable, especially at a joint press conference where Rep. Steve Womack took Senate Republicans to task for being unable to pass a single House-approved budget yet. He basically said the Senate is making everyone look bad. Some Republican Congresspeople grumbled about getting rid of the filibuster, but looks like McConnell said that’s a hard no.
Something’s definitely rotten in the state of West Virginia and Congressional Republicans are taking that stink with them back to Washington.