President Donald Trump laid out a path for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get back in his good graces: replace Obamacare, overhaul the U.S. tax code and find a way to pay for big infrastructure improvements.
Yet clearing Trump’s agenda anytime soon is close to impossible in the narrowly controlled Republican Senate that already has a packed agenda of must-pass legislation.
Trump’s direction for McConnell came after he assailed the Senate Republican leader for two days on Twitter over the Senate’s failure to change the Affordable Care Act. When asked by a reporter whether McConnell should step down, Trump said Thursday he would withhold judgment.
“If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done,” along with taxes and infrastructure, Trump said, “then you can ask me that question.”
Trump amplified his criticism early Friday, retweeting a Fox News story depicting his comments as a “warning shot” to the Republican leader. In another post, Trump highlighted a second Fox story saying that Republican senators were learning “the hard way about the fallout from turning on Trump.”
Trump said during the presidential campaign that “I alone can fix it,” referring to the problems that he said plagued the U.S. But when his agenda goes adrift — as it did with the GOP’s push to undo President Barack Obama’s signature health care law last month — he is quick to fault others.
“I’m very disappointed in Mitch,” the president told reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on a working vacation. “Repeal and replace of Obamacare should’ve taken place. And it should’ve been on my desk virtually the first week I was here.”
The clock is ticking rapidly to the end of legislative work for 2017, and other needs — like raising the U.S. debt limit — are competing for scarce time. If anything, Trump may be charting a course for a worsening relationship with the Kentucky lawmaker who has led the GOP in the Senate for nearly a decade.
McConnell has sought to serve as a close ally to political newcomer Trump since Inauguration Day, forging a closer relationship with the president than that of House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who was more critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign. McConnell even successfully urged Trump to pick his wife, Elaine Chao, to serve as Transportation secretary.
Any goodwill seems to have evaporated. McConnell began this week’s discord on Monday in Kentucky by saying the president had “excessive expectations” that the Senate could pass a stripped-down version of a GOP Obamacare repeal last month. One reason some people believe Congress hasn’t done much yet, McConnell said, “is because, in part, the president and others have set these early timelines about — things need to be done by a certain point.”
“Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before, and I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” said McConnell.
Trump shot back.
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. The president also tweeted: “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!”