Trump Talks About Fighting the Swamp: ‘I Am Learning’

McConnell, Trump, Ryan
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump suggested Friday that he is learning not to trust GOP leaders as he pushes for the border wall and promotes his popular pro-American trade and immigration agendas.

“Would have been great to do it earlier,” Trump said about the 2019 appropriation of $1.375 billion for building 55 miles of border wall. He continued his veiled criticism of GOP leaders in Congress:

I was a little new to the job, little new to the profession and we had a little disappointment for the first year-and-a-half. People that should have stepped up didn’t step up. They didn’t step up and they should have. Would have been easy … it would have been a lot easier [than now]. But some people didn’t step up. We’re stepping up now. We have a chance of getting close to $8 billion, whether it’s $8 billion or $2 billion, or $1.5 billion it’s going to build a lot of walls. we’re getting it done. We’re right now in construction with walls in some of the most important areas, and we have renovated a tremendous amount of wall.

The admission came during the February 15 press conference in the Rose Garden, shortly before Trump signed the 2019 spending bill. The law may allow construction of just 55 miles of border wall, it curbs enforcement, and it offers an  amnesty option to any illegals who offer to care for some of the children and teenagers who are smuggled into the United States as “Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

In a response to a question, Trump said “I am learning”:

I never did politics before. Now I do politics. I will tell you I’m very disappointed at certain people, particularly one, for not having pushed this faster. but I’ve learned.

[Was it former] Speaker [Paul] Ryan?

Let’s not talk about it, what difference does it make? But they should have pushed it faster. They should have pushed it harder, and they didn’t, they didn’t. If they would have, it would have been a little bit better.

Overall, the GOP leadership worked with Trump to pass tax cuts and to cut the cost of the Obamacare program. But it has fought Trump tooth-and-nail on his efforts to block migrants with a border wall and legal reforms, and it has rebuffed Trump’s plans to reduce migration. Those populist, wage-boosting goals are opposed by investors and business groups, which gain wealth when the federal government imports one million legal immigrant workers and consumers each year.

In the press conference, Trump largely ignored the 2019 border security bill, but repeated his 2018 calls for border reforms and for reductions in chain migration and for ending the visa lottery:

We have catch-and-release. You catch a criminal and you have to release him …. You have chain migration where a bad person comes in and brings in 22 or 23 or 35 of his family members because he has his mother, his grandmother, his sisters, cousins, his uncle they’re all in … Then you have the lottery, it is a horror show.

However, GOP leaders made clear shortly after the November 2016 election that they oppose his lower immigration agenda. In December 2016, for example, Breitbart News reported:

“We all agree that some of President Trump’s proposed policies are not going to line up very well with our conservative policies,” Texas Rep. Bill Flores told an inside-the-beltway audience on Dec. 1.

“Let’s do the things where we agree — let’s do tax reform, lets do Obamacare, lets replace Obamacare, let’s start dealing with border security, let’s rebuild our national security and then, on those areas where his agenda is not exactly aligned with ours … then, we’ll figure out the rest in the next six months,” Flores told Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Flores also said that if the GOP takes the lead, Trump also will be less likely to push his populist agenda by changing agency policies and regulations. The GOP leadership will “just tell him, ‘Hey, we’ll take the lead on this, and we will give you the legislative and constitutional support to go forward,’ and that way, he’s not inclined to use a pen, to try to follow the Obama model,” said Flores.

In February 2018, the Senate’s GOP Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, helped GOP and Democratic Senators vote down Trump’s Four Pillars immigration reform plan. In the summer of 2018, House Speaker Ryan helped block a matching reform in the House which was drafted by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House judiciary committee.

So far, Trump has kept his “Hire American” policy, which is helping to drive up wages for Americans. In 2018, for example, wages rose by three percent nationally, and by higher levels in areas with few migrants. Minnesota employees, for example, enjoyed a wage raise of 5.2 percent, while migrant-heavy Texas gained only a two percent increase in wages.

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