The GOP may indeed be morphing into the party of President Trump, but some top Republican lawmakers don't seem particularly happy with their president lately.
This week, they called Trump "muddy and mercurial." They tweeted that his deal lifting sanctions on a major Chinese telecoms company was #verybad. They pushed legislation to limit his ability to levy tariffs on imports. They called his embattled Environmental Protection Agency head "swampy." And they directly disagreed with him on some major conspiracies the president has been pushing about the Russia investigation.
On the whole, Republicans in Congress are still deferential to Trump, but this week was notable for just how many of them felt compelled to speak out against the president on different issues. Some of the criticism came from the usual corners of Republican criticism, but some of it came from people who normally defend the president.
It suggests that, after a year and a half of mostly keeping their lips zipped, Republicans are becoming more willing to criticize the president when they disagree with him. What's really fascinating is that this dynamic is changing five months before midterm elections, where Republicans would rather be presenting unity to keep control of Congress.
Here are the places Trump is taking heat from his own party this week:
There is no greater policy difference between Trump and Republicans in Congress than on trade. Republicans — even Trump's closest allies in Congress — have blasted his decision to place tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from such U.S. allies as Canada, Mexico and the European Union. They fear that a trade war could offset whatever economic benefit midterm voters see from their tax bill.
This week, half a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Trump frenemy Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), are pushing legislation that would give Congress the power to stop Trump's tariffs. The Post's Erica Werner reports that Trump personally asked Corker to back off, and he refused.
It's not clear whether the anti-tariff legislation will get a vote, since GOP Senate leaders are extremely cautious about confronting the president so directly. But it's remarkable that a Republican-led Congress is even considering trying to stop a Republican president from instituting one of his major economic policies.
On Trump's deal saving Chinese company ZTE
On Thursday, the Trump administration backed off punishing sanctions against Chinese telecom giant ZTE. ZTE has to pay a $1 billion fine for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea and over concerns it could copy U.S. technology. But it gets out from under sanctions that could have ended the company altogether.
Trump started all this by tweeting that he wanted to save Chinese jobs.
A bipartisan group of senators is trying to reverse what Trump did for ZTE. Much of this centers on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He tweeted that the ZTE deal is a “#VeryBadDeal” and introduced an amendment to basically reinstate the ban on ZTE from buying U.S. parts to make its phones.
Among the amendment's supporters is Trump's ally Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), whose name has been floated for top jobs in Trump's Cabinet.
Demanding a vote on an immigration deal Trump hates
A group of two dozen House Republicans is demanding a vote to reinstate deportation protections for “dreamers” that Trump took away, and they're going around House Republican leadership to make it happen by circulating a petition.
They've set a deadline of Tuesday for a vote that would embarrass GOP leadership and directly defy what Trump wants in any immigration deal to protect children brought illegally to the United States. A meeting this week with House Republicans didn't produce a compromise that could avoid such a showdown.
Calling Pruitt “swampy”
Republicans have been fairly deferential to Trump on whether to keep EPA chief Scott Pruitt on the job after weeks of headlines about Pruitt's ethically questionable behavior.
But this week, two Iowa senators said Pruitt needs to go. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said he is “about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C.”
This wasn't entirely driven by Pruitt's abuses of power. The Post's Dino Grandoni reports that Ernst and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) were upset with Pruitt over a wonky policy proposal about gasoline and diesel.
This week, the two most powerful Republican congressional leaders broke with the president on two of his major Russia-related arguments.
Trump claims the FBI inserted a spy into his campaign. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he sees no evidence that's the case.
Trump also floated his questionable ability to pardon himself should the special counsel investigating 2016 Russia interference charge him with a crime. Both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Trump off that: “He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do,” McConnell said Tuesday.
Also on Friday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) (another frequent GOP Senate Trump critic) had this to say about Trump's proposal to allow Russia back into the G-7: "This is weak. Putin is not our friend and he is not the president's buddy," Sasse said in a statement of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Republican leaders haven't totally broken with Trump on Russia. Ryan did say something this week that is probably music to the president's ears: “Let’s just make that really clear: There’s no evidence of collusion. This is about Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again.”