- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2018

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — President Trump and congressional Republicans said Thursday that their prospects are brightening for the November midterm elections and predicted that Democrats will begin to feel pressure to find ways to cooperate on the big issues facing Capitol Hill.

Speaking to lawmakers at their annual policy retreat, Mr. Trump said they ticked off a list of historic accomplishments last year and urged them to keep forging ahead into the midterm elections.

“We’ve fulfilled far more promises than we promised,” he said.

Mr. Trump also praised Republicans for surviving unprecedented Democratic obstruction to achieve what they could: a $1.5 trillion tax cut package, major changes to Obamacare and the installment of an army of conservative judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

But the major issues facing Congress now will require bipartisanship if any legislation is to reach his desk. If things don’t change, the president said, Republicans will have to take their case to voters.

“We have to get help from the other side or we have to elect more Republicans — that’s another way of doing it,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said poll numbers are looking better for Republicans than they had during trying months last year. The party is more bullish than it has been in some time on chances to stave off a Democratic wave in November.

Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign committee, said Mr. Trump remains popular in some of the key districts Republicans will need to hold and that their candidate recruitment efforts, fundraising prowess and overall message are strong enough to overcome challenges.

“If we stay focused on selling the tax reform package, I think we’re going to hold the House and I think things are going to be OK for us,” he said.

Democrats would need to flip about two dozen seats to retake the House and two seats to win an effective majority in the Senate.

They are banking on resisting Mr. Trump at every turn and leveraging his unpopularity to get their voters to the polls.

House Republicans plan to counter with their own polarizing “asset” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who remains deeply unpopular.

Mr. Stivers pointed to Mrs. Pelosi’s comments that corporations were doling out relative “crumbs” to workers, which in some cases amounted to $1,000 bonuses, as a result of the tax cut package.

Mr. Trump predicted that the taunt would come back to haunt Democrats in the same way that Hillary Clinton’s comment about Mr. Trump supporters being a “basket of deplorables” hurt the 2016 Democratic nominee.

“Those two words — they seem to have a resemblance. I hope it has the same meaning,” the president said.

“She called it crumbs when people are getting $2,000 and $3,000 and $1,000 — that’s not crumbs. It’s a lot of money,” he said.

Mrs. Pelosi’s office said Thursday that attacking her is a disingenuous way to try to hide the true Republican “tax scam” — the label she has given to the new tax cut law.

“What’s deplorable is Republicans’ desperate effort to hide the multibillion-dollar corporate windfalls of the GOP tax scam behind a handful of meager, one-time bonuses,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill. “The casual dishonesty of taking Leader Pelosi’s words out of context is nothing compared to the dishonesty of Republicans’ sales pitch on their tax scam itself.”

No Democrats voted for the tax cut bill.

Mr. Trump said they will get another chance to cooperate on immigration. He said he has proposed a middle-ground compromise, and he challenged Democrats and conservative Republicans to join him in the center.

He said he offered the deal to try to entice Democrats to the table. If they refuse, he said, it will be evidence that they are using illegal immigrants as political pawns.

“If they don’t approve something within that sphere, that means, very simply, that they’re not looking to approve it at all. They want to use it for an election issue, but it’s now an election issue that will go to our benefit, not their benefit,” he said.

Republican leaders also feel they have seized the upper hand after the recent government shutdown and predicted that Democrats will be loath to force another shutdown showdown next week, when the government is scheduled again to run out of money.

“One of my favorite old Kentucky country sayings is: There’s no education in a second kick of a mule. And so I think there will be a new level of seriousness here,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Republicans are banking on the tax cut bill to carry them to victories in November, hoping voters reward them when workers see positive effects in their paychecks as soon as this month.

“As that happens, I think that will bode well in the midterms,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican.

Mr. Meadows also said recent polls have moved prospects for congressional Republicans from “abysmal” to “more traditional ranges.”

A Monmouth University poll showed Republicans gaining 13 points in a month on the question of which party voters would lean toward sending to Washington, shaving a 15-point edge for Democrats down to 2.

Mr. Trump’s approval rating also increased, though more people still disapproved of the job he is doing than approved.

Despite the improving numbers, some vulnerable Republicans are taking steps to distance themselves from Mr. Trump in hopes they will be able to survive any anti-Republican wave.

On a recent Politico podcast, Mr. Stivers said he would advise every candidate to “represent your district.”

“I think we need to be smart about how and where we use everybody, every surrogate, whether it’s the president, vice president, you know, other members of Congress, other folks who want to help,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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