There was no shortage of confusion on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning as reporters rushed to gather GOP responses to President Donald Trump's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deal with Democrats, while many Republican lawmakers denied such a deal existed.
“It was simply not an agreement,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insisted when pressed on the president's Wednesday night dinner with Democrats, who had claimed they reached a consensus on a package to protect DACA recipients in exchange for beefed-up border security — but without provisions for Trump's wall along the southern border.
“The president wasn't negotiating a deal last night,” Ryan added at his weekly press conference.
Others were unclear on what the agreement was, asking reporters to provide details.
“Gosh, we gotta figure out exactly what it is first, do we not?” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) responded when asked about the news.
Regardless of whether a deal was struck, some of Trump's strongest supporters were upset with the vague details coming out of the dinner.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Trump's most loyal supporters became fans in the first place because of Trump's campaign promises to “build a wall, enforce the border, enforce immigration law, no amnesty, ever.”
“If they see amnesty coming out of the White House, then that's the one thing that will crack his base,” King told reporters.
It's the second week in a row the president has turned to Democrats to work through murky congressional disputes. Last week, Trump threw Republicans under the bus and easily accepted the Democrats' three-month debt limit deal — a deal that could put Republicans in a vulnerable spot come December.
“I wish he would negotiate with us a little bit, too,” Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said Thursday morning.
Republicans have been surprised — or at least disappointed — by Trump's newfound willingness to concede wins to Democrats, but House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) said it wasn't much of a shock.
“We're not surprised by this knee-jerk behavior by him,” Crowley told Independent Journal Review. “It really is more demonstrative of the broken Republican Party here in the House and the Senate — their inability to get anything done.”
And Republican lawmakers agreed with that assessment, for the most part.
“If we can't get things done, we're giving [Trump] no choice but to work with the Democrats,” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) told reporters. “This president did not come here to do nothing, and that's clear.”
Republican lawmakers who were hesitant to criticize Trump echoed Barletta's mea culpa, casting the blame on Congress instead.
“[Trump] is understandably frustrated out of his mind,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said, pointing to the GOP's failure to pass key agenda items like Obamacare repeal out of the Senate.
“I don't fault the president,” a concerned Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) concurred. “He wants to get something done. I will say the House and the Senate needs to get its act together.”
Blame aside, the situation was a reminder for Republicans that they can't depend on Trump to toe the party line in one-on-one negotiations with the opposite side.
“Either because he doesn't understand the policy or he doesn't understand when he's getting played by 'Chuck and Nancy,' the president clearly can't be left unsupervised,” a senior Senate GOP aide said in a text to IJR.
Despite the confusion and lack of communication, Republican members insist a fix to protect DACA recipients that will have the support of GOP lawmakers will happen.
“We're not going to bring a solution to the floor that does not have the support of President Trump,” Ryan said Thursday afternoon.
“And if we have the support of President Trump on the kinds of things I just said — getting security and enforcement along with a solution here — that, I believe, will get a majority of our members, because our members support President Trump.”