It’s a major recurring theme of the Trump administration: The president threatens to betray a conservative principle, and Republicans in Congress try to talk him out of it.
When Trump has veered left on immigration and told either Democratic leaders or bipartisan groups of lawmakers that he’d back a simple deal to give the so-called Dreamers a path to citizenship, conservatives on Capitol Hill—along with hardliners like Stephen Miller in the White House—have persuaded him to back off and insist on a tougher stance instead.
After the president flirted last week with strict gun-control policies, National Rifle Association lobbyists swooped in to set him straight, and GOP leaders backed them up by putting off quick votes on tighter gun restrictions.
But top Republicans may have met their match when it comes to trade—an issue that has animated Trump’s politics for three decades. Last week, he declared that he would unilaterally impose steep tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum as soon as his administration could get him the papers to sign. The hastily arranged announcement horrified the veteran free-traders who lead the GOP in Congress: not only House Speaker Paul Ryan, but also the chairmen of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over trade, Kevin Brady of Texas and Orrin Hatch of Utah, respectively. Trump has rebuffed the efforts by Republican lawmakers and some of his own advisers to slow his drive for tariffs, and GOP leaders appear to lack either the will or the votes in Congress to block him legislatively.