Republican officials on Capitol Hill are embracing President Donald Trump’s “Trump-Friendly” group of lawmakers, but caution that the group is more of a “platform” for him to speak about his priorities than a real opposition force.
In the wake of the death of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) in a shooting, the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), the Republican caucus led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY), announced it would not support Trump for president.
The caucus had been a staunch opponent of Trump throughout the campaign, and even during the first few months of his presidency, it was one of Trump’s most vociferous critics.
But after Trump’s election, the caucus began to move to support the president.
In the wake and after Trump took office, Ryan and Paul have continued to praise Trump, saying he’s a “true friend” of the union movement.
“As the leader of the House of Representatives, it’s my job to represent the best interests of the American people, not the president’s,” Ryan told Fox News in an interview last month.
“I know we all want to see him succeed and we all know that it would be better if he did, but I think it’s important to be careful that we are able to represent all Americans equally, and we want to be able to work together in the Senate and the House.”
Paul also said he is open to the idea of Trump joining the group if the president wants.
“We’re willing to be helpful if the President wants to come and meet with us and say, ‘Hey, we know you’ve been talking about this and we understand why you’re so concerned about union workers,’ ” he said.
“It’s not about me.
It’s about the people of the United States.
I’m just trying to do what’s best for the country.
I think that’s all that matters.”
While Paul has endorsed Trump’s campaign, he has been a vocal critic of the administration’s economic policies.
During the campaign and after the election, Paul called for Trump to “cut a deal” with union workers and not make the unions a central part of his agenda.
Paul and Ryan have not always been friendly to unions.
In a statement in March, Ryan called union membership “the single greatest threat to American workers,” and “the root cause of much of our ills.”
Paul also said in 2016 that unions should be banned, and Ryan has criticized the president on Twitter for supporting the so-called “right to work” legislation.
Paul also tweeted in May 2017 that the Trump administration’s plan to privatize the U.S. Postal Service was a “big mistake.”
He later said he “misspoke” and that he “thought” he had spoken about privatizing the postal service.
Ryan and Paul also have not been shy about their disagreements with Trump.
In February, Ryan told reporters that Trump was “very bad” on immigration, and he told reporters, “The more people you have, the less people you can have in Congress.”
Paul later tweeted, “Trump has never had a single friend in Congress.
He’s never had one friend in the White House.”
After the 2016 election, Ryan also tweeted that he would “love to meet with Trump if he wants to get on board” with a union bill.
Paul has been more vocal in his support for Trump, calling him “a very good friend” and praising him as a “great American.”
Paul said he supports unions because they are a “definitely” a part of the middle class, but he has criticized Trump for not being able to keep his promise to bring back manufacturing jobs that were lost in the Great Recession.
“I think the unions are probably a better vehicle for a lot of the stuff that I think is important,” Paul said in May.
“If you want to go back to a pre-recession, pre-Trump economic model, if you want the kind of manufacturing that’s going to support that economy, you have to have a lot more of the trade unions.
I have been in favor of trade unions for years.
But I also think we’ve got to have real trade unions.”
In April, Ryan tweeted, “#FULL: A lot of jobs are lost as manufacturing job cuts are passed through the #union.
But we are also losing jobs in the #UWNT as our #TPP trade agreements weaken #union jobs.”
Paul has also criticized Trump’s proposed border wall.
In September, Ryan said, “I think we should have a border wall, but it should be smaller.”
Ryan later clarified that he meant that “we should have an “island” wall, which he said was a solution to the “deeper problems of border security.
“Paul’s criticisms of Trump have been echoed by others in the GOP, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R -AR