President Trump tells Republicans: ‘This is just the beginning’

February 1, 2018 GMT

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. President Trump fired up congressional Republicans gathered to plot their 2018 agenda Thursday, telling them they ticked off historic accomplishments last year and urging them to keep their foot on the gas ahead of November’s election.

The president said Republicans have surmounted a wall of Democratic obstruction, but said if things don’t improve, the GOP will have to defy expectations and expand its numbers in the elections.

“We have to get help from the other side, or we have to elect more Republicans that’s another way of doing it,” Mr. Trump said.

He also said the latest numbers are looking solid for the GOP as it prepares for the midterm elections. He didn’t say what those numbers were, but polling shows his own approval ticking up though still overall negative and shows the tax plan also growing more popular among voters.

Mr. Trump said the next test for Democrats will come on immigration, where he said he’s offered compromises but has met with resistance.

“If they don’t approve something within that sphere, that means, very simply, they’re not looking to approve it at all. They’re looking to use it as an election issue, but it’s now an election issue that works to our benefit,” the president said.

He also called for action on legislation that would give terminally ill patients broader rights to try experimental drugs.

And he praised GOP leaders he’d feuded with in the past, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at one point even wondering whether he could have won the 2016 election without them.

Lawmakers gathered for lunch at the tony resort gave Mr. Trump a standing ovation and sustained cheers and applause upon his entrance to the stage.

Republicans’ first year of majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House produced a $1.5 trillion tax-cut package, confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and other judges, and rolled back a host of Obama-era government regulations.

‘We’ve fulfilled more promises than we promised’

Republicans did fail in their monthslong quest to fully repeal Obamacare, but the tax law does repeal the health law’s individual mandate requiring most people to buy health insurance or face a fine one of its key pillars.

Republicans acknowledge that they face a tough political climate heading into the midterm elections, when the party of the incumbent president has historically lost seats in Congress.

But they also say there are some reasons for optimism, including the benefits from the tax law they say the public will continue to feel and some recent public polling that’s shown a narrower general advantage for Democrats.

Vice President Mike Pence predicted Wednesday evening that Republicans will retain control of the House and Senate.

Democrats need to pick up a net of about two dozen seats to retake control of the House.

Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, but are dealing with a more advantageous map than Democrats, who are defending close to a dozen seats in states Mr. Trump carried in 2016.