Trump-McConnell feud roils
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.