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GOP Cautiously Welcome Trump Era       01/22 10:20

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Republicans anxiously monitor President 
Donald Trump's Twitter feed, parse his pronouncements, and brace for potential 
controversy each time he gives an interview.

   But GOP lawmakers also say they're growing increasingly accustomed to 
expecting the unexpected from Trump, and they're learning to take his abrupt 
pivots in stride, even when what he says stirs divisions or casts doubt on key 
Republican goals.

   So at the dawn of the Trump presidency, the most optimistic Republicans on 
Capitol Hill have high hopes they can learn to work with the new chief 
executive to bring about positive change for a bitterly divided nation. The GOP 
has monopoly control over Washington for the first time in a decade, and 
Republicans are keenly aware that voters expect them to deliver.

   "It's what the American people want. It's refreshing," said House Majority 
Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "You'll see the House and Trump working closely 
together. We have the same priorities."

   Many congressional Republicans, from Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on down, 
were slow to embrace Trump's candidacy, and some of those concerns linger. 
Several lawmakers are wary of Trump's foreign policy stances, such as his 
skepticism toward NATO. Trump's fickleness, his tendency to embrace a position 
one day before seeming to abandon it the next, confounds some in his party.

   That happened recently on health care and taxes, the two domestic issues for 
Congress this year. In a pair of high-profile interviews this month, Trump made 
a surprise call for health insurance for everyone and cast doubt on a core 
plank of the House GOP tax plan, before softening both stances in subsequent 
interviews.

   GOP Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, his state's governor for eight 
years before coming to Congress, said a chief executive needs to take a stand.

   "It's OK in a campaign world to cause people to not be sure of how you're 
going to react, it keeps them on edge and maybe not on their full game," 
Sanford said. "In the world of governance, it can be disastrous."

   Trump himself disclosed that Ryan called him up and asked him to stop 
talking about taxes, because "it's very complicated stuff." But in general, 
Ryan and other members of GOP leadership, who are in frequent contact with 
Trump and his top aides, tend to be sanguine about Trump's erratic public 
pronouncements. They say that as rank-and-file lawmakers get to know Trump 
better their concerns will be quieted, too.

   President Barack Obama came under criticism from lawmakers of both parties 
for his hands-off approach to Congress, his apparent disinterest in schmoozing 
with lawmakers or using the trappings of his office to woo them. Top lawmakers 
and aides say they've already impressed upon Trump's lieutenants the importance 
of care and feeding of lawmakers, and they predict Trump will have better 
congressional relations than Obama.

   "There's an inclination this president has toward personal relationships, 
meaningful personal relationships," said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North 
Carolina, a member of the House GOP leadership. "So day by day, members get 
more comfortable with how this president expresses his power and utilizes his 
power. Even if they don't fully grasp it, they're gaining comfort with his 
approach."

   Some Trump supporters have said they learned to take the new president 
seriously, but not literally, over the course of the campaign, and GOP 
lawmakers are learning to do the same. After Trump made his comment about 
everyone having insurance once Obama's health care plan is repealed, lawmakers 
quickly decided that what Trump actually meant was that everyone should have 
"access" to insurance, which is the standard GOP talking point.

   "I guess you'd probably have to ask him what exactly he means by that, but 
my assumption is that it's a reference to what most of us have been talking 
about," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. "And that is we want to make sure that 
everybody in the country has access to a health insurance plan that works for 
them and is affordable."

   Similarly, Trump surprised some lawmakers by declaring he had his own health 
care plan on the verge of completion; if so, no one has seen it. But others 
shrugged it off, concluding that Trump was probably really just talking about 
the proposals under development between Trump's transition team and GOP 
leadership.

   Lawmakers got an early taste of the power of Trump's Twitter feed as the 
115th Congress came into session at the beginning of January. As their first 
act, House Republicans decided behind closed doors to gut an independent ethics 
office. But when Trump tweeted his disapproval amid a public backlash, the GOP 
immediately reversed course.

   Now the hope among Republican lawmakers is that Trump will spare them his 
Twitter fire and focus instead on recalcitrant Senate Democrats, nudging them 
into helping the GOP replace Obama's health law and overhaul tax laws. But as 
Trump begins governing, even supporters on Capitol Hill say they can't predict 
what will happen next.

   "It's Donald Trump, you should expect the unexpected," former Speaker John 
Boehner, R-Ohio, said Friday as Trump prepared to take the oath. "If you think 
the last 12 months have been pretty crazy, wait till you see the next 12 
months."


(KA)

 
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