Republicans hope for unity message in Trump visit to Congress

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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans hope that a pair of visits from former President Donald Trump on Thursday will bring unity to their sometimes bitterly divided caucuses in the Senate and House of Representatives, as the party heads toward the Nov. 5 election.

Trump is due to meet with House Republicans Thursday morning and have lunch with Senate Republicans, aiming to coordinate campaign strategies to deliver a “trifecta” of Republican control over the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Trump and current Democratic President Joe Biden each enjoyed unified governments in their first two years in office, but saw their parties lose control of the House during midterm elections, which impeded their ability to pass legislation.

“The meeting will be forward-focused on how Republicans can work together to advance policies to save America, including protecting Social Security and Medicare, securing the southern border, and cutting taxes for hardworking families,” a senior Trump campaign official said.

The Republican presidential candidate is also due to speak on Thursday to the Business Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based association of more than 200 corporate chief executives.

“Our ability to get a majority in the Senate is intrinsically linked to President Trump winning. So, we’re like one team/one vision, and I think that’ll be largely what we talk about,” Republican Senator Thom Tillis told reporters.

Republicans hope to see Trump defeat Biden, extend their current razor-thin 218-213 majority in the House and take control of a Senate that Democrats currently lead 51-49.

OLD GRIEVANCES

But the visit has also put a spotlight on longstanding tensions between Trump and members of Congress, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has not spoken to the former president since he acknowledged Biden’s election victory in December 2020. Trump’s false claims that his defeat was the result of fraud inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Despite their differences, the Kentucky Republican emphasized his support for Trump’s candidacy. “I support him. He’s earned the nomination by the voters all across the country. And of course, I’ll be at the meeting,” McConnell told reporters on Wednesday.

Others, including moderates such as Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowksi and Mitt Romney, will not attend, citing scheduling conflicts.

House Speaker Mike Johnson met with Senate Republicans over lunch on Wednesday to talk about how a united Republican government could use a parliamentary vehicle called budget reconciliation to bypass Democratic objections in the Senate.

“We have big policy changes that we’d like to enact,” Johnson told reporters afterward. “So, we want to make the most use of that and be coordinated between the two chambers.”

A main focus for House and Senate Republicans will be making permanent tax cuts under Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will otherwise expire next year.

Lawmakers also expect to discuss their plans around spending for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and how to handle the looming Jan. 1 deadline to raise or suspend the nation’s debt ceiling. Brinkmanship around debt-ceiling deadlines has spooked financial markets in the past.

House Republican centrists also hope Trump will persuade hardline conservatives who ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October, sought to oust Johnson last month and have blocked their own party’s legislation over the past year, to get in line with the rest of the conference.

“The president has an opportunity to reaffirm to the members of our conference how important it is to stick together,” said U.S. Representative Anthony D’Esposito. “Our success will be depend on us sticking together as Republicans.”

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Lincoln Feast.)

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