Senior aides for Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are expected to meet privately this week to discuss policy measures
Some Republicans have said that they were heartened Trump seemed last week willing to uphold GOP principles
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are moving rapidly to forge consensus around an election-year platform – as the party establishment tries to shape its presumptive nominee’s positions on a range of issues to align with bedrock GOP orthodoxy.
After their high-profile meeting in Washington last week, Ryan and Trump will dispatch their senior aides to meet privately this week to discuss policy measures – just as the House GOP is crafting an election-year agenda and as Trump plans a series of policy speeches.
How much consensus there’ll be is still an open question, as Trump and Ryan disagree sharply on major issues like trade, entitlements and immigration. But the fact that the two sides are meeting underscores the intensifying effort to promote a unified message that Republicans hope they can campaign on up-and-down the ticket. Already, Trump advisers have reached out to House committee and subcommittee chairmen to hear policy ideas, lawmakers said, something Trump supporters hope will alleviate concerns within the establishment over its presumptive nominee’s positions.
“Mr. Trump has been at the 30,000-foot level,” said Rep. Chris Collins of New York, a leading Trump liaison who said the effort was intended for candidate to put “meat on the bones.”
Whether the effort succeeds could go a long way in determining whether Trump will emerge as a different type of candidate in a general election – and if Ryan and the rest of the party establishment begin to fall in line.
“Our teams are meeting next week to go over the deeper meaning of the policies that we have been talking about that come from the principles we universally share as Republicans,” Ryan said Saturday at the Wisconsin Republican Convention in Green Bay.
Ryan added, “It’s no secret that Donald Trump and I have had some disagreements. It’s no secret that we’ve, from time to time, clashed on an issue or two. That happens with people. That happens with Republicans.”
GOP leaders described last week’s meeting between Trump and top Republicans in Congress as a positive first step. Privately, a number of Republicans later said that they were heartened that Trump seemed willing to uphold basic GOP principles – on issues ranging from taxes to the Supreme Court to abortion. Further meetings, lawmakers said, would help them pin down the unpredictable billionaire.
“He’s not going to tear up the party platform – that’s a good thing,” said one Republican source, who asked not to be named but attended last week’s Senate meeting, where Trump mostly listened to senators’ suggestions.
Trump’s chief Capitol Hill liaison, Rick Dearborn, who until recently was Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, has been reaching out to top House GOP leadership aides to try to coordinate more directly with them about their efforts to craft a detailed policy platform, according to one senior aide who spoke with him last week.
A true Republican?
Still, many Republicans on Capitol Hill are unnerved by Trump because he’s never before held elected office and held liberal views on a number of issues before running for president this cycle. Moreover, he’s spent little time on the campaign trail detailing his own ideology – and has broken with much of his party over his opposition to cuts to entitlement programs and expanded international trade.
In interviews with GOP members across the ideological spectrum, a number of GOP lawmakers would not say if Trump is a true Republican – let alone conservative.
“A lot of his policies don’t comport with my vision for how I represent Kansas,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo when asked if he thought Trump was a true conservative. “I’m hopeful over time, he’ll do better.”
“Obviously he espouses some very conservative values,” said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a conservative who backed Ted Cruz but has not yet endorsed Trump. “I think like anyone running for office, the proof will be in the pudding.”
Asked if he had confidence Trump will espouse GOP values, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said: “It’s a long process.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters last week that the one issue he wants Trump to detail his plans on federal spending and debt.
“There might be common ground on entitlements based on his statements, because we honestly don’t have enough detail to know,” Mulvaney said.
Yet many on the Hill are hopeful that the discussion with Ryan’s camp as well as weekly meetings Trump campaign officials are holding with House Republicans will begin to change how the likely nominee promotes their party’s vision.
North Dakota GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, who endorsed Trump last month, told reporters he’s been in touch with the Trump campaign to provide input for the front-runner’s upcoming speech at a petroleum conference at the end of May.
“What I’m offering up is an ‘all of the above energy plan’ … that fit with his ‘America First’ theme as it pretty much relates to everything,” said Cramer, who added that he’s been in touch with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and others close to the candidate.
Still to some, Trump needs to start talking more like a Republican – and tone down often divisive rhetoric – before they’d consider getting behind him.
“My colleagues I’ve spoken with – whether they support him or not – all have serious reservations,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate from Pennsylvania, who has yet to back Trump.