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Tariffs, deficits and immigration throw GOP into disarray

Electing Republicans to run the White House and both houses of Congress in 2016 was supposed to avert the kind of standoffs that interrupt government.

But even with Democrats out of power, President Donald Trump last week threatened a new "shutdown" if lawmakers fail to fund the border wall and meet other demands.

Members of his party seeking re-election in the fall clearly do not want to be blamed for the kind of chaos that marked their procedural rebellions against Democratic President Barack Obama. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was optimistic this wouldn't happen.

Trump has generated a number of empty threats and red herrings while in office. To that point, The Wall Street Journal quoted an administration official conceding: "The president sees merit in having this battle after the election.”

Delayed as they might be, an inevitable high-stakes immigration fight marks just one of  several important schisms within the GOP. 

Another widened last week as Trump began trashing and publicly insulting the industrialist Koch brothers who for years funded successful conservative issues campaigns and candidacies around the country.

The Koch political network of hundreds of right-wing donors met days earlier in Colorado Springs, Colo. Leaders said they would shun GOP Senate candidate Kevin Cramer, who is challenging Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). Cramer supports Trump's tariff efforts; the Koch group opposes them.

By moving to impose new regulations and taxes on foreign commerce, and by ballooning the federal deficit through massive tax cuts and military-spending increases, the White House refutes the longtime "free-trade", frugal-government mantras of the Republicans.

Much attention is properly paid this campaign cycle to internal Democratic rifts between leftists and centrists amid the ruins of the Hillary Clinton campaign. But it is the policy strains on the GOP side that would have practical impact if the current majorities hold in November.

Republican members of Congress, who hold important sway over Trump's White House, are unlikely to heed the president's expressed wishes if they deem it against their own or their constituents' interests.

The Trump-Koch fight has been widening. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote in a memo to donors Thursday: "Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party.

 “This is unacceptable.”

James Davis, a Koch network spokesman, told Politico: "Just as we have in the past, we will work together with the President, elected officials and others where we agree. And, where we disagree, we will do so in a civil way."

Former White House aide Stephen Bannon is back in the public eye spewing venom at party dissidents. "We are going to let people know that if you take Koch money there's a punishment," he told CNBC. "If you take money from people who are against the president and are looking to put a knife in the back of the president, you are going to pay."

He didn't say how.

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