President Donald Trump tried on Tuesday evening to push Republicans in the House to pass an immigration reform bill later this week, basically telling GOP lawmakers he would support whatever they could approve, as Republicans not only were struggling to find the votes to do that, but a number of party members were also telling the White House to back off a new policy that separates some illegal immigrant kids from their parents after being picked up at the border.
“The system’s been broken for many years," the President told reporters at the Capitol before the unusual Tuesday evening gathering.
"The immigration system, it’s been a really bad, bad. system, probably the worst anywhere in the world. And we’re gonna try and see if we can fix it.”
Earlier in the day, the President had told an audience of business leaders that he would not back off his calls for major changes in U.S. immigration laws.
"When people come up, they have to know they're never going to get in, or else it's never going to stop," Mr. Trump said of the flow of illegal immigration across the southern border with Mexico.
But complicating matters for the President was the recent move by his administration to force the separation of children and parents, if the parents were being charged for illegally entering the United States, as that continued to draw stern opposition from GOP lawmakers of all stripes.
"All of us are horrified at the images that we are seeing," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
"We ought to stop separating families," said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS). "The Administration disagrees," as GOP lawmakers said the conflict wasn't really discussed during the Tuesday night meeting with Mr. Trump.
"We can have strong border security without separating families," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
13 GOP Senators signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Trump Administration to "halt current policies leading to the forced separation of minor children from their parents," but that missive fell on deaf ears at the White House, as GOP lawmakers scrambled for kind of legislative answer.
House GOP leaders on Tuesday night posted two different immigration bills for possible House votes - one was a more conservative plan backed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), which was unlikely to get close to a majority; a second was a more moderate bill that lacked the support of conservatives.
It left many unsure what would happen if votes occurred this week on the House floor.
"I'm still working through whether I can vote for the compromise bill," said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), as more conservative lawmakers withheld their support from the only all-GOP plan that has a chance for approval.
Meanwhile, even as Mr. Trump tried to push Republicans to stick together on immigration, he managed to cause some internal GOP pain, as lawmakers said the President - during the closed door meeting with House lawmakers - took a verbal shot at Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who lost his primary a week ago to a candidate backed by the President.
"Is Mark Sanford here? I just want to congratulate him on running a great race," the President reportedly said, drawing quiet groans and hisses from some GOP members.
One Republican, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) said later on Twitter, that the jab was uncalled for.
"This was a classless cheap shot," Amash wrote.