Trump To Meet With Republican Leaders Of The House, Senate

May 12, 2016
Originally published on May 12, 2016 8:00 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, this is a day of reckoning for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Donald Trump is meeting privately this morning with House and Senate Republican leaders. We expect they are talking about the division within the party and whether Republicans can ultimately unify ahead of the general election. NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis joins us now. Hey, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: All right, so why is this meeting happening?

DAVIS: So this meeting comes exactly a week after House Speaker Paul Ryan made his shock announcement that he wasn't ready to support Trump just yet after Trump locked up the nomination last week after his Indiana primary win. So the first meeting is a one-on-one with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. The meeting was brokered by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who saw these two were not on the same page and said...

GREENE: ...Not good for the party...

DAVIS: Yeah.

GREENE: ...We've got to do something about this.

DAVIS: We need to get you guys in a room. Trump is then going to meet with the Republican leaders of the House. Unlike Ryan, all of them except for one - Cathy McMorris Rodgers, she's a Republican from Washington and the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress - she's the only one of the rest of the leaders who have not endorsed Trump. She's like Paul Ryan. She says she wants to meet with him before she can get behind him.

Trump will then travel over to the Senate side, where he will meet with House - with Senate Republican leaders. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come out and said he supports Mr. Trump. And, you know, even though they've had this sort of combative tone going into it, we talked to Paul Ryan yesterday. And he said, you know - he kind of acknowledged he doesn't expect to change Mr. Trump's mind on a lot of issues and that he just wants to start unifying the party.

And Donald Trump was on "Bill O'Reilly" this week, and he said very nice things about Paul Ryan. He said he has a lot of respect for him. He believes the speaker loves the party. So they both set a very conciliatory tone heading into these meetings.

GREENE: Publicly, at least.

DAVIS: Publicly, yes...

GREENE: ...I guess it doesn't tell us exactly what's going to go on behind the scenes because, as you said, I mean, there are disagreements in terms of policy and style, I presume. I mean - so what can we expect? Is this actually going to break some new ground and help the party come together and look unified here?

DAVIS: Well, Republicans like Ryan say that today is the beginning of a long unification process, that Republicans didn't expect this to be locked up until the convention. Now that it is, they need some time to get used to the idea of Mr. Trump as the top of the ticket. You know, there are huge policy difference between what we're calling the Trump wing of the party and the Ryan wing of the party.

Things like, you know, Mr. Trump says he'll raise taxes, that he wants to build that wall and on things like his support for banning Muslims from entering the country, these are all things that Republicans like Paul Ryan have been very critical of.

You know, he said he's not going to change his mind. But he wants to find a way where these two wings of the party can peacefully coexist in a way that doesn't fracture the party in two heading into November, which, if that happens, Paul Ryan says we're going to lose.

GREENE: You said, Sue, that some leaders are coming behind Trump now. Well, what about Republicans across Capitol Hill? I mean, are more and more of them getting behind Trump?

DAVIS: They are. You know, I spent most of yesterday talking to Republicans in the House, and more of them than not have come out and endorsed Trump since he locked up the nomination. Of course, there are notable exceptions. Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is working to find a third-party candidate to run. And some of Trump's former primary opponents, like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, have not said they - have said they - have not come out and endorsed him.

Lindsey Graham has said he will not vote for him. The thing I find funny is I talk to a lot of Republicans who say there's a difference between endorsing him and supporting him. They're saying you don't have to endorse them, but you do need to get behind him.

I talked to one Republican, Oklahoma's Tom Cole, who said look, you know, we're all getting there. And he's going to be at the top of our ticket. And what good does it do us to run against him?

GREENE: All right. And maybe this is oversimplifyng, but who needs who more? Trump need Ryan - Ryan need Trump, any way to know?

DAVIS: It's a little bit of both. You know, Ryan and House Republicans need those Trump voters that have come into the party to support them in their own races. But if Trump wants to win in November, he's going to have to win over these skeptical Ryan-style Republicans, more traditional conservatives, who are doubtful of his credentials to be president.

GREENE: All right. We'll be hearing much more about this meeting later today on All Things Considered. That's congressional reporter Sue Davis. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.