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Conservative Christians Express Frustration Toward Congressional Republicans


Conservative Christian activists are in Washington for the annual Values Voters Summit. It should be a celebration of sorts with Republicans in full control of the federal government. But some people are angry. NPR's Susan Davis reports they say Republicans in Congress aren't doing enough to support President Trump.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Frustration at Congress is so prevalent at this gathering. Even lawmakers are piling on, like North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, who compared his colleagues to the shells in a shotgun.


MARK MEADOWS: All the shells look exactly the same. In fact, you can put them in, and as you shoot, well, occasionally you come across one where you pull the trigger, and it's a dud.

DAVIS: The duds, Meadows said, are the ones resisting President Trump's agenda, like those who oppose the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And what should these values voters do with the duds?


MEADOWS: We have some members that are duds that have been left in the chamber too long. And it's time that we eject them. What do you think?

DAVIS: Conservatives here like Henry Allen are ready to do just that. He sees a big difference between his Republican president and the Republican establishment in Congress.

HENRY ALLEN: They have for several years viewed us as insurgents. And we are the antithesis of what they want in this country. This is the payback. They saw it in Alabama. And we're coming.

DAVIS: Allen is talking about the Alabama Senate race. That's where the Christian nationalist candidate Roy Moore defeated incumbent Republican Senator Luther Strange in the primary. Allen says he'd like to see more insurgents like Moore run for Congress in 2018. He ticked off a list of grievances with Republicans, including Trump critics like senators John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

ALLEN: I'm sorry for McCain's health. But he, like the senator from Tennessee, need to resign. It's time. It's time for a new generation.

DAVIS: Activists here have long been critics of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and, increasingly these days, of Speaker Paul Ryan. Hostility towards them is amplifying because Congress hasn't delivered Trump much in the way of legislative victories. McConnell and Ryan declined invitations to speak this year. Activist Linda Harvey explained the view from the base this way.

LINDA HARVEY: You know, why can't we get our agenda through? Some of this stuff is what they campaigned on, they themselves. That's just why there's a lot of concern about their leadership.

DAVIS: This helps explain why Republicans are under so much political pressure to deliver on tax cut legislation. Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson told activists he's confident they'll send a bill to President Trump this time. Here's why.


MIKE JOHNSON: Even the RINOs in the Congress recognize that it's their scalp that's at issue here. If we don't get this done, there's going to be a reckoning next fall, and everybody's - yes...

DAVIS: RINO stands for Republican in name only. It still surprises some that conservative evangelicals have rallied so faithfully behind Donald Trump. Conservative commentator Bill Bennett spoke to that today.


BILL BENNETT: Well, they say, what about the tweets? What about the past? What about some of the profanities and vulgarities?

DAVIS: Bennett said they stand behind Trump not because of what he has done but because of what they believe he can do for their cause.


BENNETT: We are conscious of his history. We are conscious of his future. And as Oscar Wilde said, just as every sinner has a future, every saint has a past.

DAVIS: For activists like Bennett, Trump and those lawmakers created in his image are the future of the party. Susan Davis, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.