Trump hints McCon­nell should go if agenda fails

Pres­i­dent calls Oba­macare re­peal fail­ure ‘a dis­grace.’

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Julie Bykowicz and Erica Werner

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump es­ca­lated a feud against his top Se­nate part­ner Thurs­day, sug­gest­ing Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell might have to think about step­ping aside if he doesn’t de­liver on the pres­i­dent’s agenda of health care, taxes and in­fra­struc­ture.

Trump called McCon­nell’s fail­ure to pass a re­peal of so-called “Oba­macare” last month “a dis­grace.” Asked if McCon­nell should con­sider step­ping aside or re­tir- ing — an out­come some con­ser­va­tives are openly clam­or­ing for — the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse was far from a vote of con­fi­dence.

“Well I tell you what, if he doesn’t get re­peal-and-re- place done and if he doesn’t get taxes done, mean­ing cuts and re­form, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, in­fra­struc­ture, if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that ques- tion,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters in Bed­min­ster, N.J., where he is in the midst of a 17-day golf va­ca­tion.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from McCon­nell’s of­fice.

Trump’s com­ments came af­ter he spent two days slam­ming McCon­nell over Twit­ter, writ­ing Thurs­day morn- ing that af­ter “scream­ing” about re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing “Oba­macare” for seven years, McCon­nell “couldn’t get it done.” Sev­eral hours later, the pres­i­dent’s tone took a mo­ti­va­tional turn as he ex­horted, “Mitch, get back to work and put Re­peal & Re­place, Tax Re­form & Cuts and a great In­fra­struc­ture Bill on my desk for sign­ing. You can do it!”

The pres­i­den­tial mega- phone am­pli­fied the McCon­nell-bash­ing that’s been voiced in con­ser­va­tive me­dia: Bre­it­bart News, Fox News’ Sean Han­nity and ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh are among those who have vil­i­fied the leader af­ter the Se­nate’s fail- ure on health care late last month. They rep­re­sent a seg­ment of the Repub­li­can elec­torate, in­clud­ing some ma­jor donors, who are out to pun­ish what they see as a “do-noth­ing Congress” that has ham­pered the pres- ident’s goals.

But McCon­nell’s sup­port­ers saw Trump’s moves as coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

“Vir­tu­ally any sub­stan­tial goals that the pres- ident in­tends to achieve, whether it is tax re­form or more in­fra­struc­ture, re­quires the ac­tive as­sis­tance of the Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader,” said Michael Steel, who was spokesman to former House Speaker John Boehner.

Even Newt Gin­grich, a Trump backer and in­for­mal ad­viser who for­merly served as speaker of the House, crit­i­cized the dis­pute.

“They have to work to­gether,” Gin­grich said. “Gov­ern­ing is a team sport.”

Af­ter the fail­ure on health care, McCon­nell and other Repub­li­can lead­ers, in­clud­ing top White House eco­nomic of­fi­cials, are de­ter­mined to pivot to over­haul­ing the tax code with the hope of pass­ing cuts by the end of the year. McCon­nell has made clear he has lit­tle in­ter­est in re­vis­it­ing a health care fight he is nu­mer­i­cally doomed to lose.

“The leader has spo­ken re­peat­edly about the path for­ward re­gard­ing Oba­macare re­peal and re­place on the Se­nate floor, at me­dia avail­abil­i­ties and in Kentucky,” spokesman David Popp said Thurs­day be­fore Trump’s com­ments sug­gest­ing McCon­nell’s even­tual exit might be­come nec­es­sary.


Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Kentucky leaves the White House’s West Wing last month to speak with re­porters af­ter a GOP sen­a­tors’ meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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