U.S. President Donald Trump (C) listens to House Speaker Paul Ryan (L) as he gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House...
CARLOS BARRIA

During immigration push, Trump cuts off House GOP leaders at the knees

As yesterday got underway on Capitol Hill, House Republicans prepared to vote on two immigration bills – a far-right plan and a not-quite-as-far-to-the-right plan – both of which were negotiated behind closed doors without Democratic input. The odds of either one passing were bleak.

Things quickly went from bad to worse. Members discovered that the less radical of the two measures, which enjoys the GOP leadership’s support, not only lacked the votes needed to pass, it was also riddled with “technical drafting errors” as a result of sloppy legislating.

Soon after, the more radical proposal failed in the face of bipartisan opposition, and House Republican leaders, struggling with intra-party chaos and widespread confusion, announced that the other GOP bill would be voted on next week (after initially saying the vote would be today).

Trying to explain the slow-motion debacle, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a relative moderate on the issue, said yesterday that Republican lawmakers are trying to honor the president’s wishes, but they don’t really know what Trump wants. That dynamic intensified this morning.

After repeatedly saying Congress needs to solve the immigration problem, President Donald Trump on Friday called on lawmakers to delay dealing with the critical issue until after the midterm elections — while accusing Democrats of concocting politically motivated “phony stories of stories of sadness and grief” on the border.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump tweeted. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

In other words, the Republican president would like the Republican Congress to simply stop trying to pass immigration legislation – until 2019 – which is pretty much the opposite of what House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team wanted Trump to say as they scramble to find the votes needed to pass their bill, which Trump is supposed to support.

For those keeping score, GOP lawmakers took up this issue at the behest of the White House. After working with Trump on a bill, the president announced on Friday that he wouldn’t sign it. Officials in the West Wing soon after reversed course, saying the president didn’t understand the question.

On Tuesday morning, Trump urged Congress to “get it done” right away, because “now is the best opportunity ever.” That night, however, the president appeared on Capitol Hill and left members more confused about his expectations.

On Wednesday, Trump met privately with several House Republicans, and reportedly expressed some sympathy for the GOP criticisms of the leadership’s bill.

On Thursday, with just hours to go before a scheduled vote, the president tweeted that he didn’t understand “the purpose” of House Republicans even trying to pass an immigration bill, which led to this morning’s directive that House GOP lawmakers should stop working on this altogether.

Even by 2018 standards, this is astonishing. Three days ago, the president implored his own party to keep trying, assuring House Republicans that he’s with them “1,000 percent” and he “will not leave you in the wilderness.” Today, that same president thinks his Capitol Hill allies “should stop wasting their time.”

If it wasn’t obvious before that these guys aren’t ready for prime time, it is now.