After repeatedly saying Congress needs to solve the immigration problem, President Donald Trump on Friday called on lawmakers to delay dealing with the critical issue until after the midterm elections — while accusing Democrats of concocting politically motivated "phony stories of sadness and grief" on the border.
"Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November," Trump tweeted. "Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!"
The tweets come as lawmakers are continuing to try to find a way forward on immigration. The House announced Thursday that it had postponed a vote on a moderate compromise immigration bill until next week. Another immigration measure, supported by conservatives, was defeated in a floor vote Thursday.
The call for a delay is yet another stunning about-face for Trump, who earlier this week had tweeted, "Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration."
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told NBC News that the House will still vote on the GOP compromise immigration bill next week, despite Trump's tweets calling for a delay.
"I think we are doing quite well on the bill because the conference together is working on it," McCarthy said Tuesday. "I think it's important that the House be able to show that we can take the action."
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Asked if the tweet was damaging, McCarthy spun back on Democrats, saying, "For the Democrats it's very damaging. They show that they're not serious about solving this issue. There's an opportunity and a willingness on our part and they're nowhere to work on it."
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., dismissed the impact of Trump's tweet. "I don’t know that it affects vote totals at all. Everybody is proceeding as they were," he said.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., also said Friday that the House would still vote next week on the compromise immigration bill. He did acknowledge that passing the compromise bill will continue to be an “uphill battle.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a moderate Republican who led the charge on the immigration discharge petition, dismissed the impact of the president's tweet Friday.
"We’re going to keep working. There are a lot of members dedicated to making this happen," Curbelo told NBC News. "We had major breakthroughs yesterday. A lot of members are excited about getting something done on immigration so we’re going to continue working. We have another meeting later today."
Curbelo said he's not disappointed by the president's tweet because Trump "changes his mind often so I'm confident that if we get a good product out, that he'll get behind it."
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., another moderate, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the Congress should continue working on immigration legislation.
"I respectfully disagree," Lance said, reacting to Trump's tweet. "I think we should continue to work on it."
"It doesn’t help, I’ll be honest," Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told reporters reacting to Trump's tweet. "What we wanted was for the president to say vote ‘yes’ next week on the compromise bill. To be fair to the president, he’s being realistic. You’ve got to have 60 votes in the senate so that is a pretty tough bar to meet."
Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she's frustrated with the president.
"It’s just...you just fear that tweet in the morning, saying, 'Oh no, how many policies are you going to do by the day’s end?'" she told reporters. "How many times will he change his mind?"
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said the tweet might have been fatal to any push for legislative action on the issue. "I think it probably kills off the possibility of immigration moving forward," he said, even though "you never say never," Meanwhile, retiring moderate Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., suggested that the president's tweet had essentially killed the effort. "Torpedoed by tweet. tweet-pedoed," he tweeted.
After GOP leaders decided Thursday to delay the vote on the compromise immigration bill, during a two-hour House GOP conference Thursday evening, members discussed potentially adding E-verify and agricultural visa work provisions into the compromise bill. The addition of these provision could tilt the bill slightly more conservative and will likely garner more votes across the caucus as a result.
However, members from across the ideological spectrum said they would hash out a compromise on these two issues, which is why they decided to delay the vote until next week.
Multiple leaders leaving the meeting also expressed confidence that the two new additions could get the 218-vote majority necessary to finally pass an immigration bill and send it over to the Senate, with some predicting the president might like this bill even more than the conservative measure the House voted down on Thursday.
The president's message on Friday came at the end of a tumultuous week that saw public outcry over his administration's policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border culminate with an executive order from Trump halting the practice, and fruitless toil in the House to pass an immigration bill.
Throughout the week, Trump has repeatedly undercut the prospects for a successful outcome, tweeting earlier that passing the bills could be a waste of time because of the uphill climb in the Senate, as a 60-vote filibuster would apply to such legislation.
"What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms)," Trump tweeted Thursday, just hours before the House’s first vote. "Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule — it is killing you!"
The president's hard-line stance, however, conflicts with recent goings-on in the Senate, where lawmakers from both parties have in recent days begun reaching across the aisle in an attempt to find a legislative solution.
In particular, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have teamed up to find a fix for the family separation issue.
"We're working together on legislation that both conferences can support," Cruz told Politico Friday.
Whether or not the president's tweet suggesting the GOP drop the issue for now slows action on immigration, Sanford said the party ultimately can't afford to take his advice. "The longer this issue festers, I think it'll have the reverse effect," he said. "Rather than creating a 'red wave,' it may very well be part of what creates a 'blue wave.'"