02:15 - Source: CNN
McCain: WH controversies 'sucking the oxygen out of the room'

Story highlights

Members had ready responses to the questions about Russia

Lawmakers lamented they aren't talking about policy

Washington CNN —  

Republican lawmakers in Congress said Wednesday they are tired of answering questions about Donald Trump Jr.

The revelation that the President’s son agreed to meet with a Russian lawyer after an acquaintance emailed him that the Russian government had damaging information about Hillary Clinton has reverberated through Washington, and some Republicans in Congress say that it interferes with their abilities to do their jobs.

“It’s sucking the oxygen out of the room, everybody knows that,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain. “I think it’s very difficult when you have this overwhelming barrage of new information that unfolds every few days. I think it’s obvious.”

Lawmakers around the Hill lamented that the conversation was shifted to talking about the latest drip from the administration in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. They noted that the Senate is trying to pass its version of a health care bill, the government’s funding runs out in September and they are still trying to pass tax reform.

“So a lot of important legislation, and we need to be working and thinking about that,” said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a member of Republican leadership in the House. “I’m not in the business of advising the White House, but I would say, as much as you can focus on the things that need to get done, message on these sorts of things, and try to avoid the distractions, I think that would help us a lot.”

The House is trying to pass a bill to sanction Russia, as the Senate has done, noted Texas GOP Rep. Mike McCaul.

“It doesn’t help,” said he said. “I mean, these things always take us … off message when the message should be a unified Congress stands up to Russia and Putin.”

Republicans around the Hill had visible reactions Wednesday when asked about the emails, with a variety of responses at the ready.

House Speaker Paul Ryan ducked questions in his weekly press conference, saying the congressional and Justice Department investigations will get to the bottom of the matter.

Some insisted that the deepening scandal at the White House does nothing to affect their work.

“It doesn’t interfere at all,” said North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “We’re all focused on the agenda.”

Fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ted Yoho, of Florida said his constituents don’t care about Russia. But he acknowledged that it doesn’t make life easier.

“It’s a distraction,” he said. “You know it’s like driving down the road and you’ve got a gnat flying around. It’s like, let’s focus on what we need to.”

Some responded like Yoho by saying the matter doesn’t resonate in their districts, while policy does.

“They don’t interfere with my ability because nobody in my district cares about this, they think it’s a big nothing-burger,” said Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie. “So I’m reflecting my district by pretty much not paying attention.”

Others took the tack of blaming the media.

“This is like a high level of hyperventilation over a tiny little thing that as a standalone, it’s nothing,” said Iowa Rep. Steve King. “I don’t think that it’s a story and I think the media’s made it a story.”

“That’s the intent of the news media and the Democrats to make it a distraction instead of focusing on issues of substance like deficit and debt, the debt ceiling, infrastructure, tax reform, border security,” said Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks. “Those issues don’t have nearly the ratings draw, but they’re issues we have to address.”

All of the lawmakers expressed a desire, though, to press ahead with their work and not let the investigation get in their way.

“We have to get the job done. It’s a crisis a week, so we can handle it,” said New York Rep. Peter King. “It shouldn’t (undercut us), if it does, that’s our fault. … What happens with the Russia investigation is going to happen, it shouldn’t interfere with what we do.”

CNN’s Manu Raju and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.