Trump hints McConnell should go if agenda fails
President calls Obamacare repeal failure ‘a disgrace.’
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.