The top Republican congressional leaders downplayed differences with the White House and said lawmakers are pulling in the same direction as President Trump when it comes to the party's core agenda: replacing the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes, and paring back regulation of businesses.
"We are on the same page as the White House," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said in a news conference Thursday morning in Philadelphia, where GOP lawmakers are meeting in their annual strategy retreat. "We are trying to fix people's problems in this country."
The leaders did, however, indicate they disagree with the president on the use of torture in questioning terrorists suspects. Trump said just Wednesday in signing an executive order that torture "absolutely works."
The group is set to hear from Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Vice President Pence later today at the Loews Hotel.
Neither leader wanted to engage with the latest Twitter statements from Trump.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he had "no advice" to give to the president given his tweet Thursday morning that Mexico's president should cancel a planned state visit in a dispute over financing of Trump's famous border wall. Ryan also declined to remark on the tweet.
"This is going to be an unconventional presidency; I think you know this by now," Ryan said. "We're all going to have to get used to it."
He added that the shared agenda is the same, disputing the notion that Trump has changed his mind in any substantive way.
Interestingly, Ryan referred several times to a "border fence," while Trump prefers a wall. Congress passed authorization for border fencing in 2006. Congress will pay for "the construction of a physical barrier on the border," Ryan said.
Asked if Congress will offset the cost of Trump's wall by cutting federal spending elsewhere, Ryan shrugged and moved on to the next question.
Congress will take up the funding issue when the Trump administration sends a supplemental appropriations request for border security. McConnell said Trump's wall would cost from $12 billion to $15 billion.
Trump has promised that Mexico will pay for the wall, while members of Congress meeting in Philadelphia have made it clear to reporters that funding will come from the U.S. taxpayer — at least up front.
Ryan and McConnell also made it clear they have no interest in revising the legal definition of torture to allow waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques that Trump wants to employ on terrorist suspects.
McConnell said the White House draft directive on reopening the use of "black" overseas sites for questioning of terrorist suspects made it clear that Trump would continue to follow the law, which prohibits torture.
"The directive to the CIA has made it clear he’s going to follow the law and I believe that virtually all of my members are comfortable with the state of the law on that issue now,” McConnell told reporters.
"Torture's not legal and we agree with it not being legal," Ryan said.