Aug 11, 2017 by Washington Times
President Trump said Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s failure to get an Obamacare repeal bill across the finish line was a disgrace and that the Republican leader must start notching some wins or else it will be time to talk about ousting him.
Days after Mr. McConnell chided the president as a political novice, Mr. Trump said he was stunned by Senate Republicans’ inability to pass the same repeal they cleared two years ago before President Obama vetoed it.
“I just want him to get repeal-and-replace done,” Mr. Trump said. “They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace, and frankly it shouldn’t have happened — that I can tell you.”
When prodded on whether Mr. McConnell should step down as majority leader, Mr. Trump said that question can be asked if the Kentucky Republican fails to deliver on health care, tax reform and an infrastructure package.
The open verbal warfare between Mr. Trump and one of the two most powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill has riven their party, with rank-and-file lawmakers and potential candidates picking sides.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the most senior Republican in the upper chamber, backed Mr. McConnell, calling him the best Republican leader in decades, but a host of candidates plotting runs for office sided with Mr. Trump.
The Senate majority leader sparked the battle on Monday when he told a Rotary Club in Kentucky that Mr. Trump, as a political neophyte, doesn’t understand the pace of the legislative process. He said the timelines the White House set for legislative wins overhyped expectations, which his chamber hasn’t been able to meet.
Mr. McConnell pointedly shot down yet another timeline this week, dismissing the White House’s stated goal of having a tax code rewrite in the Senate in November.
“I’m not going to tell you when we are going to finish tax reform, but we’ll finish it. That’s the way we begin to change America,” Mr. McConnell said, according to the Northern Kentucky Tribune.
Mr. Trump appeared to heap more pressure on Mr. McConnell on Thursday at his New Jersey golf club, where he is taking a working vacation and where reporters peppered him with questions about whether he wants Mr. McConnell to be ousted.
“I’ll 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 said.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the other top leader on Capitol Hill, appears to be keeping pace with the White House’s schedule. Soon after Mr. Trump spoke, Mr. Ryan’s office sent a memo calling 2017 “the year of tax reform.”
Mr. McConnell’s office referred scheduling questions to the Finance Committee, where Mr. Hatch is chairman. The committee pointed to comments from Mr. Hatch last week saying he expected bills to move through relevant committees this fall.
As for Mr. McConnell, Mr. Hatch left no question about his support. He called Mr. McConnell “the best leader we’ve had in my time in the Senate.”
“I fully support him,” Mr. Hatch said on Twitter.
Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and a prominent critic of Mr. Trump, also said he supports Mr. McConnell, saying on Twitter that he “does a tough job well.”
But a host of candidates plotting runs for office and conservative activists are siding with Mr. Trump.
The Senate Conservatives Fund called for Republicans to replace Mr. McConnell for failing to advance the party’s agenda. Although the Senate has repealed Obama-era regulations and confirmed a Supreme Court justice, it stumbled over Obamacare, has yet to take up any of the immigration crackdown bills that cleared the House and is months overdue on passing a 2018 budget.
“It isn’t unreasonable to expect Republicans to keep their promises, and McConnell’s excuse is yet another example of why he should be replaced as the Republican leader,” Conservatives Fund chief Ken Cuccinelli said in an email blast. “Tell Senate Republicans to replace him now!”
Republicans looking to run for the Senate are also siding with Mr. Trump in his dispute with Mr. McConnell.
“Why would anyone think it is too high expectations to actually vote on it now that you have a president who will sign it?” Danny Tarkanian, who is mounting a primary challenge to Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, said on Fox News. “Of course I support the president’s position.”
Some House Republicans, who labored to pass an Obamacare repeal bill in May, also have questioned Mr. McConnell’s leadership in recent weeks and lament that the Senate’s inaction is making all Republicans look bad.
“This isn’t the president’s fault,” Rep. Sean P. Duffy, Wisconsin Republican, said Thursday on Fox Business Network. “This sits squarely within in the Senate and their inability to pass a health care bill and, frankly, many other bills that we brought to them through the House.”
“So I think the president’s right here, and he should push back,” Mr. Duffy said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters, tried to defuse the spat. He said both sides share blame by repeatedly failing to muster votes for change.
Three Republican senators — Susan M. Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — sided with all 48 Democrats to doom Mr. McConnell’s latest try at health care legislation, which many senators were hoping would keep the process moving.
“It was a collective failure. Both the Trump administration and the Republicans in the Senate failed, but to get involved in shooting at each other when there were 16 Democrats voting no for every single Republican who voted no is goofy,” Mr. Gingrich said on Fox News.
Mr. Trump was quick to say that his dissatisfaction with Mr. McConnell doesn’t extend to the senator’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, who is Mr. Trump’s transportation secretary.
“We’re very proud of Elaine as secretary of transportation, as you know. She’s doing a very good job,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in Mitch. If he gets these bills passed, I’ll be very happy with him and I’ll be the first to admit it.”
Mr. Trump is pressing Republicans to try again on Obamacare repeal, but Senate leaders said they have given up for now. Mr. McConnell signaled that he would try to shore up the struggling 2010 health care law by asking Democrats to help.
The president also is considering working with Democrats on infrastructure, another of his major agenda items.
“I want a very big infrastructure bill,” he said Thursday. “We may even get bipartisan on infrastructure.”
Asked later to elaborate, he said there might even be “more support from the Democrats.”
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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