House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is under increasing pressure to reconcile with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who will meet with Ryan and other Republican leaders Thursday in Washington.

The meeting between Ryan and Trump has been cast as an opportunity to soothe tensions between Trump and the GOP establishment at a pivotal moment for a party sharply divided over the likely nominee’s unorthodox and controversial campaign.

The two sides have engaged in a war of words since Ryan declared last week that he was “just not ready” to support Trump as the nominee. Trump responded that he was not ready “to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.” The comments highlighted the rifts that Trump will need to overcome as he seeks to unify the party.

Already, Trump and Ryan have sought to distance themselves from their hostile exchange.

“I think I’m doing very fine with Paul Ryan. I have a lot of respect for Paul Ryan. We’re going to have a meeting tomorrow; we’ll see what happens,” Trump said Wednesday on Fox News. “If we make a deal, that will be great. And if we don’t, we will trench forward like I’ve been doing and winning, you know, all the time.”

Trump will meet Thursday morning with Ryan, R-Wis., and his leadership team at Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill. He will meet later with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his top associates. The Trump campaign said the agenda for the gatherings will include “issues of mutual interest.”

Tensions within the party over Trump have only worsened in the week since he effectively clinched the nomination following the departures of rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Former GOP nominee Mitt Romney, members of the Bush family and other top Republicans have declined to endorse Trump publicly. Romney, who ran in 2012 with Ryan as his running mate, blasted Trump on Wednesday for suggesting he would not release his tax returns until after the election.

The real estate mogul will need party resources behind his White House run if he hopes to run a competitive bid against likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign is finalizing plans with the RNC to set up a joint fundraising committee – a “victory fund” – to solicit donations far larger in magnitude than what the campaign itself is legally allowed to accept. The additional funds are routed to the party’s war chest then used to finance national get-out-the-vote operations.

A group of senior party financiers is expected to direct the fund, according to people familiar with the plans, including former RNC finance chairman Ray Washburne. He left his post at the RNC to serve as finance chairman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, a key ally to Trump.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised nearly $500 million in 2012 through such an agreement with three national GOP committees and four state parties. That effort began in April 2012 and yielded $140 million in contributions by the end of June 2012.

Ahead of their meeting, Ryan struck a conciliatory tone, telling reporters he was eager to develop a relationship with Trump.

“We just need to get to know each other. And we as a leadership team are enjoying that we have a chance to meet with him,” Ryan said Wednesday. “This is a big-tent party. There’s plenty of room for different policy disputes in this party. We come from different wings of the party. The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party around common principles so that we can go forward unified.”

Should the two remain at odds, “I think the consequences would be pretty severe, frankly,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., one of a handful of early Trump endorsers in the House. “I think they’d be more severe for the institution of the House than it would be for Donald Trump.”

Ryan faces a tough balancing act, seeking to hold fast to his own brand of ideological conservatism while mending divides in the House GOP ahead of the general election.

Ryan has hinted this week that his meeting with Trump will be less about the businessman’s policy positions – the two differ sharply on trade, immigration and entitlement spending – and more about Trump’s willingness to acknowledge broader conservative principles of government and to soften the tone of his campaign.

But Trump, whose anti-establishment campaign has won him nearly 11 million primary votes, appears to be carrying more leverage into the meeting. While both men could benefit from an alliance, several House members said Wednesday that they believe unity is critical ahead of the July convention in Cleveland.

“No ifs, ands or buts,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., another early Trump endorser. “The party must be united to focus on beating Hillary Clinton.”

Several House Republicans said Wednesday that they expect Ryan to eventually find a way to support Trump.

“Paul Ryan is very principled, but he’s also very professional and pragmatic, and he knows that a big part of his job, the most important part of his job, is leading us and helping us retain our majority,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “I don’t see how being at odds with your nominee helps you achieve that objective. So I think, in the end, they’ll find common ground.”

Ryan’s clash with Trump comes as the speaker has been struggling to manage some sharp internal debates among House Republicans.

The House is set to blow past a May 15 statutory deadline for passing a budget, and a bill Ryan supports to address Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis remains mired in committee. A prolonged rift with Trump could further undermine Ryan’s ability to lead his caucus.

Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said he would have liked Ryan to have issued “a stronger statement” in support of Trump after clearing the primary field last week. “The people just spoke,” he said. “You need to listen to the people and learn, what are the folks saying to us?”


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