Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not intend to pick a fight when he questioned President Donald Trump’s expectations and was surprised by the explosion it produced, according to people close to the Senate GOP leader, The Hill reports.
McConnell and Trump spoke Wednesday about what McConnell’s allies characterized as a misunderstanding, but that did little to quell the president’s anger.
“We should have had healthcare approved. McConnell should have known that he had a couple of votes that turned on him and that should have been very easy to handle, whether it’s through the fact that can take away a committee chairmanship or do whatever you have to do.” Trump said Friday from his New Jersey golf club.
Sources close to McConnell say he is stunned by Trump’s attacks, which have only increased in recent days, as an attack on a member of his own team. Some in the Trump administration, however, think McConnell should have seen it coming, The Hill comments.
A senior administration official expressed “100 percent agreement” with the president that McConnell has not done enough to advance his legislative agenda. The source cited McConnell’s failure to pass healthcare reform and the record-slow pace in confirming his nominees to key executive branch positions.
Trump and his allies reckon that he was elected to the White House despite the barrage of personal attacks from Hillary Clinton because voters want accomplishments that will change the status quo. The administration delegated the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare to McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, and they’re not getting the job done.
“People think Mitch maybe has lost a step,” the source said.
While McConnell argues he worked hard and exhausted every option to pass ObamaCare repeal legislation, the source underlined that senators just left town for a four-week break from Washington.
Trump allies complain that while McConnell vowed to “burn the midnight oil” to get things accomplished in the majority, that hasn’t happened in practice, the source further adds.
During last year’s presidential campaign, McConnell had deftly avoided confrontations with Trump, but he stepped on a landmine Monday when he said Trump “had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the Democratic process”.
The remark clearly angered Trump. On Wednesday, he dismissed McConnell’s analysis of his “excessive expectations” with a curt “I don’t think so” via Twitter and took a more personal shot by voicing disbelief that the leader “couldn’t get it done” after having “screamed repeal and replace for seven years”.
By Thursday, Trump was suggesting to reporters that McConnell maybe should step down as Senate majority leader, his career-long dream, if he fails to deliver on tax reform and infrastructure.
Trump’s broadsides at McConnell, who spent three months negotiating legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare and came one vote short of sending a bill to conference, left McConnell’s allies dumbfounded.
“Trump’s reaction was way disproportionate,” said the source close to McConnell who requested anonymity to discuss the spat with Trump frankly.
While McConnell’s allies say Trump has reason to be frustrated over the Senate’s failure to pass healthcare legislation, venting his anger on McConnell makes no sense — if for no other reason than he needs him to pass other parts of his agenda.
“It was also a strategic blunder because no one is more important than McConnell to Trump’s agenda,” said the McConnell ally, who argued that Trump needs a savvy field general to get his agenda passed through the Senate, where the threshold for controversial bills is often 60 votes.
These allies note that McConnell delivered Trump’s biggest win since the election by holding open the Supreme Court seat left open by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell also changed the Senate rules to confirm Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, to the seat.
McConnell’s camp thinks Trump blew the episode out of proportion, and some wonder if a Trump ally may have an ax to grind with the Senate leader.
In the battle between Trump and McConnell, most GOP senators are making clear their loyalties lie with the Senate leader. As of Friday afternoon, at least 20 GOP senators had voiced support for McConnell’s leadership.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, said McConnell still has his full support and that if any Republicans deserve blame for the failure of ObamaCare repeal, it’s the Republicans who voted against the bill, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
McConnell’s allies counter that the failure of the ObamaCare repeal bill happened because the votes simply weren’t there. They argue that Trump made the job harder by alienating two of the three Senate Republicans who voted against the bill.