Trump paying first visit to GOP rank-and-file in Congress

Published 7:15 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is paying his first visit to rank-and-file congressional Republicans, appearing Thursday morning at closed-door meetings of the House and Senate GOP caucuses.

The gatherings come less than two weeks before a GOP convention that a number of leading Republicans are skipping, including some in Congress. And while Trump is sure to be greeted enthusiastically by a handful of lawmakers, many more have expressed skepticism, criticism or outright opposition to a presidential candidate who has flouted conservative principles and divided the Republican Party.

Several have questions for Trump; others have already offered advice that the candidate has not necessarily adopted. Still others plan to skip Thursday’s meetings entirely.

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Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is in a tough re-election race, told reporters she had to attend an Armed Services Committee hearing at the same time. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said he needed to check his calendar. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he was scheduled to preside over the Senate, but that others would benefit more anyway.

“Obviously I’m very familiar with Donald and his positions, I just came off an 11-month campaign where he was one of my opponents,” said Rubio, who was often mocked by Trump as “Little Marco.” ‘’So some of the other folks perhaps wanted to spend more time learning more about his positions.”