Trump chides Senate majority leader over health bill’s failure
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump scolded his own party’s Senate leader on Wednesday for the crash of the Republican drive to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Trump fired back at the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for telling a home-state audience this week that the president had “not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
The exchange came less than two weeks after the Senate’s rejection of the GOP effort to scuttle Obama’s health care law. The House approved its version in May, but its Senate failure — thanks to defecting GOP senators — marked the collapse of the party’s attempt to deliver on promises to repeal the statute.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
Trump had repeatedly used Twitter to pressure McConnell to find the votes to approve the health care bill, even saying hours after its failure that GOP senators “look like fools.”
But his tweet Wednesday marked an unusually personal reproach of the 33-year Senate veteran. Trump will need him to guide the next major Republican priority, a tax system overhaul, through the chamber.
McConnell told the Rotary Club of Florence, Ky., on Monday that people think Congress is underperforming partly because “artificial deadlines, unrelated to the reality of the complexity of legislating, may not have been fully understood.”
He added that 52 is “a challenging number,” a reference to the GOP’s scant 52-48 Senate majority. “You saw that on full display a couple of weeks ago,” when McConnell failed to muster a majority to push three different Republican health care plans through the chamber.
McConnell’s Kentucky remarks also drew a tweet from Dan Scavino Jr., the White House social media director.
“More excuses,” wrote Scavino, one of Trump’s more outspoken loyalists. “SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years — in addition to the 7 years — to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Also joining the fray was Fox News host Sean Hannity, a close Trump ally.
“SenateMajLdr No Senator, YOU are a WEAK, SPINELESS leader who does not keep his word and you need to Retire!” Hannity tweeted.
Before taking office and after becoming president, Trump spoke often of moving health care legislation rapidly through Congress. On Jan. 10 — 10 days before taking office — he told The New York Times that Congress could approve a repeal bill “probably sometime next week,” and a separate replacement measure would be passed “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”
Top congressional Republicans also fed expectations for quick work, placing health care atop their 2017 agenda. In January, House leaders unveiled a schedule calling for action by late March, and McConnell said in March that he wanted Senate passage by the April recess.