“All I would say is, try to rise above it if you can. The country is looking for leadership. We need leadership. ... See if we can do two things at once ― fight with each other and find common ground,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
In that White House meeting, which lasted just three minutes, Trump said he would not deal with Democrats going forward until they ceased all investigations of his administration following special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Trump then walked out without acknowledging anyone in the room, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
What apparently set the president off was a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier Wednesday that by refusing all congressional requests for documents and testimony, Trump “is engaged in a cover-up.” In a press conference shortly after the aborted meeting, Trump again maintained his innocence in response to the allegations of obstruction of justice and growing calls for his impeachment from numerous House Democrats and even one Republican congressman.
“They really want a do-over!” Trump tweeted later Wednesday. “You can’t investigate and legislate simultaneously - it just doesn’t work that way. You can’t go down two tracks at the same time.”
But Republicans in the Senate want Congress to legislate amidst the ongoing battle between Trump and Democrats in the House. They have priorities of their own they’d like to see reach the president’s desk, and making that happen requires bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
“I assume that the president wouldn’t want to shut down everything,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters on Wednesday, citing legislation aiming to lower prescription drug prices that he’s been working on in recent weeks.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), meanwhile, expressed confidence that the president can still work with Democrats to find bipartisan agreement on other issues.
“We’re working on USMCA right now,” Portman said, referring to Trump’s stalled trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.
It’s difficult to see how this divided Congress produces any substantive legislation in the next year and a half, however. Infrastructure talks are effectively dead. Trump’s trade agenda hinges on an agreement that Democrats want the administration to renegotiate with Canada and Mexico. Trump’s immigration proposal is dead on arrival. Lawmakers are even struggling to pass a disaster relief package, which doesn’t bode well for more difficult tasks on the horizon like raising the debt ceiling.
The current state of the Capitol has left some Republicans howling.
A frustrated Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told HuffPost on Wednesday that he wasn’t happy with the way things are going in Washington just five months into this Congress. He urged both sides to focus on common ground like an effort to ban robocalls and a measure to prevent government shutdowns.
“The Congress, certainly the U.S. Senate, isn’t a doing a damn thing. ... The House has not tried to pass anything that has a hope in hell in the Senate. And the Senate hasn’t done a damn thing except sit on its ice-cold lazy butt,” Kennedy said.
And while he did not mention the leader of his conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), by name, the outspoken Louisiana Republican expressed annoyance that the Senate was doing little else but focusing on McConnell’s goal right now: the remaking of the federal judiciary.
“I understand the importance of confirming judges. I’ll work all weekends, I’ll work vacations to get our judges confirmed,” Kennedy said. “But we haven’t done anything.”
He added later in a speech on the Senate floor: “What have we done? Other than nominations, which are important, we have done nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.”