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House Republicans received "Make America Great Again" hats during a meeting on Capitol Hill in a nod to President-elect Donald Trump. (Photo: AP)

Donning Trump's Red Hats, Republicans—Including Former Critics—Fall in Line

"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who criticized Trump during campaign

Nadia Prupis

The normalization of President-elect Donald Trump continues on Capitol Hill, where Congressional Republicans received red baseball hats reading "Make America Great Again"—Trump's campaign slogan—in a conference meeting on Tuesday.

Despite reported internal conflict on Trump's transition team, conservative lawmakers seem to be falling in line on cue, emerging from a private meeting with hats on heads and re-nominating Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as speaker. GOP Conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) placed the hats on every chair in the room ahead of the session.

"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government," Ryan said at a press conference. "This will be a government focused on turning President-elect Trump's victory into real progress for the American people."

Ryan's turnaround on Trump contradicts his stance during the election, when he criticized the GOP's then-nominee for proposing a ban on Muslims and insulting the gold star Khan family; bragging about sexually assaulting women; and refusing to outright reject the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, among other things.

But the speaker seemed unfazed by his own about-face. "If we are going to put our country back on the right track, we have got to be bold and we have to go big," he said Tuesday. Ryan has notably refused to denounce the appointment of alt-right media mogul Stephen Bannon to chief strategist, despite his history of racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, as well as a personal vendetta against Ryan for criticizing Trump during the campaign.

In fact, according to Politico, Bannon has already gotten to work at softening his image among GOP lawmakers:

Officials from the incoming Trump administration, meanwhile, have been reaching out to Capitol Hill to get acquainted and gauge potential allies. Even Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart boss who reportedly was pushing for retribution against Ryan for the speaker's criticisms of Trump, has been telling senior Republicans that he wants to work with them, POLITICO's Playbook reported Tuesday morning. The controversial Trump adviser has reportedly been saying he's no longer planning to be a thorn in the side of Hill Republicans, who he often criticized as soft or weak, and instead wants to work with them.

Congressional Republicans also seemed unwilling to rock the boat. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that lawmakers were largely feeling excitement and "a sense of relief a little bit."

"It feels great. We have a lot of unity that we had going before but now we have a common agenda with the White House on a lot of things" he said. "I'm looking forward to the first 100 days. I think we're going to be able to do a lot."

The House of Representatives will vote on Ryan as speaker when the new Congress assembles in full in January. He will have to win at least 218 votes; Republicans will hold at least 239 by then.

Many criticized Ryan's stance and warned of the implications of his new mandate:


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