“We’re going through all this drama on the budget agreement, on the debt ceiling, but we don’t have 218 Republican votes for any of this. We don’t know that. Same with DACA,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate from Pennsylvania. “DACA, debt ceiling, budget agreement, omnibus , we don’t have 218 votes so are we united on those issues? No. We never are.”
“We won’t have a single unified position on that,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, said, acknowledging the splits within the party about immigration strategy.
He stressed the GOP would need to find areas of consensus, but admitted “I don’t expect it to come out of this three-day time period.”
Conservatives in the House, meanwhile, blasted Thune’s position.
“Senator Thune represents a state that’s a long ways from the southern border, and so making a suggestion that a two-pillar answer is going to get support in the House is a non-starter,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman and North Carolinian Mark Meadows told reporters when asked about the South Dakotan’s comments.
“I think the Senate would be well advised to focus on the Senate’s work and the House would be well advised to focus on the House’s work,” Goodlatte said.
The President then muddled the message. In his speech, the prepared remarks suggested Trump would explicitly call for the Senate to bring his framework to the floor and instead he stopped short of that.
“I know that the Senate is planning to bring an immigration bill to the floor in coming weeks and I’m asking that the framework we submitted — with great flexibility,” Trump said. “Great flexibility working with both parties — that something very positive will come out of it for our country.”
In a matter of days, McConnell is expected to unleash an immigration debate on the floor of the US Senate and no one at the retreat could articulate exactly what the outcome will be.
“We’ll see who can get to 60 votes,” McConnell told reporters about the immigration process.
The budget was another open question at the GOP retreat. Newly-minted House Budget Chairman Steve Womack suggested it made sense to skip a budget this year and focus instead on overhauling the budget process.
“Only talk,” he said when pressed on if he’d told members he wouldn’t pursue a budget this year.
The budget, of course, sets topline spending numbers for funding, but has evolved into a mostly partisan and symbolic process in recent years. Many of the budgets haven’t been use to set spending, but instead to try and pass policy objectives like health care and tax reform along simple, majority votes in the US Senate.
Republicans in the House have argued that the Senate should change its rules so that appropriations bills — those that direct money to go to specific programs and agencies — could be passed along a simple majority vote in the Senate.
“If we pushed any idea on our friends on the other side of the Capitol, it’s that get us a simple majority vote on funding this government in the Senate,” Womack said.
Moderate Democrats don’t appear interested in rehashing another shutdown, but there are still questions about whether a more than month-long continuing resolution will fly with Democrats.
Throughout the conference, Republicans tried to express optimism about the year ahead. Rep. Steve Stivers, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, addressed reporters about a landscape he said wasn’t nearly as dire as some have suggested.
“I think we’re going to hold the House and I think things will be OK for us,” Stivers said.
The party also took every opportunity to promote their tax bill and test out messaging aimed at discrediting Democrats for voting against their bill.
Mac Thornberry, chairman of House Armed Services, told reporters he didn’t blame members for fleeing.
“Joy would not be one of the top ten words I would use to describe it,” he said of the job.
CNN’s Deirdre Walsh, Phil Mattingly and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.
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