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President suggests Senate GOP leader must deliver or step aside

  • FILE -In this June 27, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. steps out of the West Wing of the White House in Washington to speak with the media after he and other Senate Republicans met with President Donald Trump. President Donald Trump raised the possibility Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, that McConnell should step down if he can't muscle health care and other legislation through the Senate, taking an extraordinary swipe at the man with the most power to steer the White House agenda through the chamber. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

  • FILE - In this June 27, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump raised the possibility Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 that McConnell should step down if he can't muscle health care and other legislation through the Senate, taking an extraordinary swipe at the man with the most power to steer the White House agenda through the chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite

  • President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. The president raised the possibility that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should step down if he can't muscle health care and other legislation through the Senate, taking an extraordinary swipe at the man with the most power to steer the White House agenda through the chamber. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • FILE - In this June 6, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. President Donald Trump resumed his taunts of his party's Senate leader, expressing disbelief that McConnell couldn't persuade a Republican majority to pass a health care bill. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Pablo Martinez Monsivais



Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2017

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 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, 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 president amplified the McConnell-bashing that’s been snaking through conservative media since the Senate’s failure on health care late last month.