Trumped by candidate's rhetoric,
Republican lawmakers at a loss for words
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[June 17, 2016]
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The awkward efforts
of Republicans to embrace their partyís standard-bearer Donald Trump
looked particularly painful in Congress this week as lawmakers ducked
into elevators, dashed away from reporters, ignored questions or, worse,
tried to answer them.
Only days after a furor over his criticism of a Mexican-American
judge, the presumptive presidential nominee sent Republicans reeling
again by renewing his call for a ban on Muslim immigration after a
gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic militants killed of 49
people at a Florida nightclub.
Then former reality TV star Trump waded into two sensitive topics
for social conservatives by embracing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) community and suggesting the country may need
certain new gun control measures.
For lawmakers accustomed to well-crafted talking points and
predictable lines of questioning, the week marked a chaotic flurry
of contorted responses or terse, tight-lipped replies.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming walked away when asked about
Trump's embrace of the LGBT community, saying: "I donít know what
the latest is. I havenít read anything. I havenít been watching."
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a former Trump adversary in the
presidential primaries, had to bat away two Trump questions before
he could announce that he is considering running for re-election Ė a
decision that could determine whether Republicans retain control of
the Senate in the Nov. 8 election.
Senator Ted Cruz, another rival in the primaries, refused to respond
directly to the speech in which Trump hardened his line on Muslims
while Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr called it ďan OK
speechĒ before stepping into an elevator and refusing to respond to
any more questions.
The Trump challenge is obvious even for seasoned Republicans.
"I'm spending my days commenting on everything that Donald Trump
says," lamented John McCain, chairman of Senate Armed Services
Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate,
ricocheted from rejection of Trumpís comments on Muslims to doubts
about the legality of his proposed immigration ban to bafflement
over the billionaireís response to the Orlando shootings.
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Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a
campaign rally at Gilley's in Dallas, Texas, U.S., June 16, 2016.
'YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS UP'
Trump controversies have also overshadowed House Speaker Paul Ryanís
rollout of a policy agenda, a campaign document that was supposed to
help bring Trumpís position more into line with mainline party
Asked on Thursday whether he was bothered by having to contend with
Trump's remarks, Ryan called Trump "a different kind of
candidate...(in) a different kind of year."
Asked how many more times he would be called on to do so, Ryan said:
"I don't know the answer to that question either."
In an ironic message to his critics among the Republican leadership
this week, Trump had this to say: "Be quiet, just please be quiet.
Don't talk. Please be quiet. Just be quiet.Ē
Ryan's response? "...You can't make this up sometimes," he said.
A political neophyte who has never held elected office, Trump has
also said he may not need much from his Republican colleagues on
Capitol Hill anyway.
"We have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me
just do it by myself. Iíll do very well,Ē he said in a CNN
interview. ďA lot of people thought I should do that anyway, but
I'll just do it very nicely by myself."
(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Richard Cowan,
Susan Cornwell and Alana Wise; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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