WASHINGTON — Sen. Pat Toomey went to the Senate floor late last week to celebrate the six-month anniversary of one of the Republicans' prized achievements during the Trump administration: sweeping tax cuts endorsed and signed by the president.
Few took note of the milestone.
Instead, it was swamped by an international uproar over Trump's immigration-enforcement policies and the wrenching separations of parents and children at the southern border.
And a day before Toomey's speech, the Pennsylvanian had laced into Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, over the president's tariffs — a step that the senator argued would harm businesses and cost far more jobs than it protected.
The contrasting moments show both the possibilities and the dangers opened by Trump's takeover of the GOP.
Traditional Republicans, stymied by eight years of Barack Obama, finally have the president they need to advance their policy agenda. With Trump in charge, they have slashed taxes, rolled back portions of the Affordable Care Act, erased regulations, and stocked federal courts with conservative judges who could shape laws for a generation.
At the same time, Trump, a former Democrat who has expressed few firm policy beliefs beyond strident nationalism, has advanced a number of policies that would have turned many Republicans apoplectic during Obama's term.
Most notably, Trump has imposed tariffs that could impede international trade, and has spurned historic military allies while cozying up to Russia. In his second year in office, the president has jettisoned many of the more conventional advisers who accompanied him into the White House and is said to be relying far more on his gut instincts.
More broadly, Trump has soaked the GOP brand in controversy — likely hurting traditional Republicans' electoral fortunes for at least this fall, and perhaps much longer, even as he enthuses his own base. The sights and sounds of children separated from their parents could make a lasting mark in voters' minds.
"The silent bargain that [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and a number of Republicans made was that they would swallow the parts of Trumpism that they didn't like because they would just have someone who would sign their bills. That was their theory," said Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Philadelphia Democrat. "Yet in reality, now that we're a year and a half into the Trump administration, I say we've gotten much more of Trumpism than we've gotten kind of the traditional Republican orthodoxy."
For some Republicans, it has proved too much.
Early last week, Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain's presidential campaign, renounced his party after nearly three decades as a Republican.
Yet despite the attention Schmidt drew, he is in the minority among traditional Republicans. Most appear to have accepted their relationship with the outsider president — or at least decided that it's not worth fighting a leader who has the firm loyalty of the GOP voting base.
"People don't like this, don't like that, don't like that, but then the bottom line is they accept him," said Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.). "To me, clearly on balance, the president has gotten results."
Toomey, who has devoted most of his public life to advancing fiscally conservative policies, has pushed back against Trump's tariffs, but saw a bill to stop them stifled by fellow Republicans who didn't want a confrontation.
"I expected that this might happen," Toomey said of the tariffs.
But he quickly rattled off the many gains the GOP has seen from Trump's presidency, including the tax bill, regulatory rollback, and judicial picks. "I think he's completely mistaken in his approach on trade."
When it was put to Toomey that Trump comes from a different school of thought than most congressional Republicans, he offered: "That is true."
He then ducked into a hearing to rip Ross over tariffs.
Across the Capitol, meanwhile, GOP leaders and vulnerable House Republicans were struggling to build support for an immigration bill that would show they were taking action to stop family separations and protect young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
The president, however, blew a hole in the effort Friday morning, tweeting that "Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November."