- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Donald Trump may be their party’s leader, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are doing their best to ignore what he is saying on the campaign trail and hoping it inoculates them against efforts to tie them to their likely presidential nominee.

Republican leaders were ducking for cover again Tuesday after Mr. Trump renewed his call for a ban on some Muslims entering the U.S.

Rank-and-file lawmakers said they were fed up with being asked to respond to the billionaire businessman in the wake of the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history.

“I am not going to sit here and dissect Trump’s speech after the tragedy so as to give someone something to write about,” Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said as reporters pestered him for a response.

Mr. Trump’s standing with fellow Republicans has risen and fallen repeatedly during his presidential campaign.

The candidate signaled a willingness to cooperate with the rest of the party but squandered that good will with another strident remark.

Mr. Trump reacted to the weekend massacre in Orlando, Florida, by patting himself on the back for predicting an attack, urging gay voters to abandon presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for supporting immigration from Muslim countries and repeating his vow to pause such immigration. The response set a new standard for a politician after a national tragedy.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, told reporters Tuesday that he does not agree with Mr. Trump’s plan to pause Muslim immigration. He called for a “security test” rather than a “religious test” for screening immigrants.

“I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest,” he said. “I do not think it is reflective of our principles not just as a party, but as a country. And I think the smarter way to go in all respects is to have a security test and not a religious test.”

Mr. Ryan ignored direct questions at the close of the press conference about whether he still backed Mr. Trump and instead moved straight toward the exit.

Other Republicans didn’t even acknowledge hearing Mr. Trump.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is running for re-election, told reporters that he has been focused on defense issues — not Mr. Trump. “I don’t have any additional remarks about Donald Trump,” Mr. McCain said.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama said he was too wrapped up in legislative business to catch Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who recently traveled to New York to meet with Mr. Trump, responded in a somber fashion.

“I have offered words of encouragement at important times but have been discouraged by the results,” Mr. Corker said before boarding a train.

President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and other top Democrats said Mr. Trump had crossed a line and was trying to divide the country in the wake of the shooting.

Trump failed the most important of tests of a presidential candidate: how to respond in a crisis when our citizens are under attack,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “It doesn’t matter what the problem has been — Trump has failed.”

At the daily White House press briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest said it will be interesting to see how some Republicans reconcile their concerns about “imposing a religious test on people entering the United States” with their support “of a candidate that supports that ban.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, said he has given up on the idea that Mr. Trump is going to act presidential.

“Everybody has to judge for themselves whether this is a presidential response,” Mr. Graham said. “I have long since believed that Donald Trump doesn’t have a presidential response in him.”

He said Mr. Trump’s response to the Florida massacre marks yet another step in the wrong direction. “He moved the ball down the field the wrong way,” Mr. Graham said. “He is making it harder to win the war.”

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