Republicans try to turn attention away Trump-Corker feud, toward tax overhaul

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Even as President Donald Trump visited the Capitol for a luncheon with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, the party’s legislators spent much of the day directing the conversation Capitol Hill back toward their tax overhaul ambitions and away from the escalating spat between Trump and a senior GOP senator.

Emerging from the policy lunch Tuesday afternoon, a number of Republican senators avoided mention of the Trump and Sen. Bob Corker’s ongoing war of words.

“If there’s anything all Republicans think are important to the country and to our party, it’s comprehensive tax reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when asked how the GOP could accomplish items on its agenda if Trump continues to feud with members of the party.

“The issue itself brings about great unity among our members,” he continued. “And so we’re concentrating on the agenda we have for the American people. The president shares that agenda, is going to do a good job, I think, promoting that agenda, and we intend to achieve what we set out to achieve before the end of the year.”

Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Trump “utterly untruthful,” accused him of undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and stood by his prior claim that the White House was an “adult day care center” both on Twitter and in TV appearances Tuesday morning. Trump responded via Twitter that Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher” and said he was “incompetent” and “set the U.S. way back.”

“There’s a lot of noise out there,” said McConnell on the attention paid to the exchanges this morning, adding, “We have a First Amendment in this country. Everybody gets to express themselves.”

Earlier in the day, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan expressed hope that the lunch would allow Trump and Corker to hash out their issues in person, but afterward Corker said that the he did not speak with the president.

Ryan told reporters Tuesday morning that he doesn’t think the dispute “changes our efforts on tax reform” because he believes Corker and Trump both ultimately share the goal to pass the plan, characterizing the effort as bigger than what’s happening in Washington. Trump tweeted his belief this morning that the senator, whom he termed a “lightweight,” “will now fight Tax Cuts plus!”

“At the end of the day, I know Bob well,” Ryan said. “Bob’s going to vote for Tennessee. He’s going to vote for America. He’s going to vote for tax reform because he knows it’s in the best interest of Americans.”

The speaker called the GOP’s opportunity to overhaul the tax code “historic” and urged that the social media exchange be put aside so that Congress could move forward on its agenda.

“All this stuff you see on a daily basis on Twitter this and Twitter that? Forget about it.” Ryan said. “Let’s focus on helping people, improving people’s lives and doing the things that we said we would do that accomplishes that. That’s what we’re focused on.”

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