GOP sen­a­tors de­fend McCon­nell from Trump

Sup­port­ers take to Twit­ter to praise the ma­jor­ity leader.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Julie Bykowicz The New York Times and the Washington Post con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans on Fri­day ral­lied in sup­port of Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, push­ing back against the on­slaught of crit­i­cism from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

They took to Twit­ter, Trump’s pre­ferred means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, to praise McCon­nell as a gifted leader backed by his 52-mem­ber cau­cus and a Repub­li­can in­tent on de­liv­er­ing for the pres­i­dent and the party on taxes and the bud­get this fall.

A num­ber of GOP law­mak­ers point­edly re­minded Trump and other GOP crit­ics that it was McCon­nell who en­sured the con­fir­ma­tion of Supreme Court Jus­tice Neil Gor­such.

“Pass­ing POTUS’s leg­isla­tive agenda re­quires a team ef­fort. No one is more qual­i­fied than Mitch McCon­nell to lead Se­nate in that ef­fort,” tweeted Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Repub­li­can in the Se­nate.

Sup­port came from mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives alike.

“Ma­jor­ity Leader McCon­nell un­der­stands the Se­nate is a de­lib­er­a­tive & di­verse body. He en­joys broad sup­port in our Cau­cus,” tweeted Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine.

“Per­spec­tive: w/out @ Se­nateMa­jLdr McCon­nell’s lead­er­ship, Repub­li­cans don’t have Neil Gor­such on Supreme Court #pro­life #pro­gun,” tweeted Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

Trump launched a bar­rage of crit­i­cism at McCon­nell over the col­lapse of the seven-year GOP cam­paign

Sen. Su­san Collins Via Twit­ter

to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act and even sug­gested on Thurs­day that the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can might have to re­think his fu­ture as leader if he doesn’t de­liver on the pres­i­dent leg­isla­tive lineup.

Fri­day, Trump retweeted head­lines from “Fox & Friends” about his ver­bal as­sault on McCon­nell and pos­si­ble fall­out for GOP sen­a­tors who crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent.

“Sen­a­tors learn the hard way about the fall­out from turn­ing on Trump,” read the first head­line. The sec­ond: “Trump fires new warn­ing shot at McCon­nell, leaves door open on whether he should step down.”

One of the sto­ries noted that two GOP sen­a­tors who have spo­ken out against Trump and his poli­cies — Jeff Flake of Ari­zona and Dean Heller of Ne­vada — have now drawn pri­mary chal­lenges.

As on Thurs­day, there was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from McCon­nell’s of­fice.

McCon­nell clearly had struck a nerve by telling an au­di­ence in his home state of Ken­tucky that Trump had “not been in this line of work be­fore” and had “ex­ces­sive ex­pec­ta­tions about how quickly things hap­pen in the demo­cratic process.”

What fol­lowed was a “tense” phone call be­tween the two men, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the ex­change, and then the pres­i­den­tial Twit­ter out­burst. The per­son was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about a pri­vate dis­cus­sion and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

In the past, Repub­li­cans have praised McCon­nell, who re­fused to even al­low a hear­ing for Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nom­i­nee, Mer­rick Gar­land, and kept the seat va­cant for more than a year as he awaited the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sults.

But Trump sup­port­ers cheer his chal­lenges to es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures, even in his own party, and the McCon­nell tus­sle po­ten­tially shores up the pres­i­dent’s base at a time when it is show­ing signs of weak­en­ing sup­port. Some Trump ad­vis­ers see value in cre­at­ing dis­tance from a Congress with dis­mal poll num­bers, de­spite the Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties.

‘Ma­jor­ity Leader McCon­nell ... en­joys broad sup­port in our Cau­cus.’

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (cen­ter), R-Ky., struck a nerve by telling an au­di­ence in his home state that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had “not been in this line of work be­fore” and had “ex­ces­sive ex­pec­ta­tions” about the process.

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