Trump-McCon­nell feud roils

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Julie Bykowicz and Erica Werner

WASH­ING­TON» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump es­ca­lated a stun­ning 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 the Af­ford­able Care Act last month “a dis­grace.” Asked if McCon­nell should con­sider step­ping aside or retiring, an out­come some con­ser­va­tives are openly clam­or­ing for, the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse was far from a vote of con­fi­dence.

“If he doesn’t get re­peal-an­dreplace 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 ques­tion,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters in Bed­min­ster, N.J., where he is in the midst of a 17day golf va­ca­tion.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from McCon­nell’s of­fice.

A sit­ting pres­i­dent openly turn­ing on a Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader of his own party in such a fash­ion is prac­ti­cally un­heard of — yet an­other norm de­stroyed since Trump’s rise on the po­lit­i­cal scene. And while the fight­ing words might elate Trump’s core sup­port­ers, they can only hurt broader Repub­li­can ef­forts to move ma­jor leg­is­la­tion this fall

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on taxes and spend­ing while pre­par­ing for con­gres­sional elec­tions next year where en­er­gized Democrats are ral­ly­ing to re­take the House. Repub­li­cans con­trol both cham­bers, but the Trump fac­tor in many races re­mains a mys­tery.

Trump’s com­ments came af­ter he spent two days slam­ming McCon­nell over Twit­ter, writ­ing Thurs­day morn­ing 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 mega­phone am­pli­fied the McCon­nell bash­ing that’s been snaking through 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 fail­ure 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 pres­i­dent’s goals.

Trump and his sup­port­ers love such po­lit­i­cal brawls, and the McCon­nell flare-up po­ten­tially shores up the pres­i­dent’s base at a time when it is show­ing signs of weak­en­ing sup­port. McCon­nell’s sup­port­ers saw Trump’s moves as coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

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