President Donald Trump has escalated a stunning feud against his top Senate partner, 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 an "Obamacare" repeal 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.
"Well I tell you what, if he doesn't get repeal and replace 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, New Jersery yesterday, where he is in the midst of a 17-day break from Washington.
Trump later added that he is "very disappointed in Mitch" but would be the first to praise him if legislation begins moving, once again presenting himself as a passive observer in the process rather than a dealmaker with the presidential pulpit.
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 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 on 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 McConnell to "get back to work" and pass bills. "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.
McConnell is "a coward who leads from behind," "spineless," and a lifelong "political animal" of the sort Trump wants to eject from Washington, said Doug Deason, a major donor based in Texas. Deason said he decided months ago not to give money to any Republicans up for re-election next year unless they can pass Trump's priorities.
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. But other Republicans saw Trump's moves as counterproductive. Even Newt Gingrich, a Trump backer and informal adviser who formerly served as speaker of the House, criticized the dispute.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)