- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
A feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is bursting out into the open. Republicans’ failure on healthcare reform appears to be the cause. It could further complicate GOP policy efforts like tax reform.
A burgeoning feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have significant ramifications for the GOP’s once ambitious policy agenda.
Analysts say the war of words could be another stumbling block for various Republican plans after limited success in their first seven months of power in Washington.
“The Trump/McConnell war of words has zero upside for the GOP agenda and is potentially limit-down,” said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group. “It is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.”
Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider that the words were a stark example of the divide between the two.
“I think the state of political rhetoric is concerning for both the GOP’s legislative agenda and the fiscal deadlines in September,” Boltansky said. “Trump and McConnell are linchpins in the legislative process, and these comments suggest a deep divide in both tone and substance.”
The cracks are starting to show at a critical time for the GOP agenda, as deadlines and a fight over tax reform loom.
Trump and McConnell’s relationship began to sour soon after Senate Republicans failed in late July to agree on a package to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.
Trump used Twitter to criticize the Senate’s lack of action, and he has since appeared disgruntled by McConnell’s inability to deliver on the healthcare overhaul.
McConnell responded earlier this week, saying Trump’s frustration stemmed from “excessive expectations” for the speed of the legislative process.
“Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before,” McConnell said at an event in his home state of Kentucky. “I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
That drew attacks on Twitter from Trump and the White House social media director, Dan Scavino.
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday: “You can see the president’s tweets. Obviously, there’s some frustration.”
Trump threw another barb at McConnell on Thursday after noon via Twitter, saying the Kentucky senator should head back to Washington to take another crack at the agenda.
“Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing,” the president tweeted later on Thursday. “You can do it!”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Trump had a call with McConnell on Wednesday to express his frustration. The report said Trump became “animated” and implored McConnell to continue to push for a repeal of Obamacare.
The public division between the president and a leading member of his party comes as the Senate faces a series of deadlines – the most pressing being a bill to keep the government funded and legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. And Republicans are gearing up for a big push on tax reform.
Greg Valliere, the chief strategist at Horizon Investments, told Business Insider the dustup was “more evidence that the Senate will go its own way” on policy issues. He added that while he didn’t necessarily think this would create more chaos for the political deliberations, it showed that Trump had been cut out of the deliberation.
“Things like tax reform will begin to move by late fall, but the White House looks increasingly irrelevant in this process,” Valliere said. “Trump will gladly take whatever he gets.”
Krueger said McConnell was likely to come out on top, given the Senate’s more stable structure and the rules of the federal government.
“The Senate has a longer job guarantee than Trump,” the analyst said in an email. “And they also have the ability to remove Trump from office. This is not a parliamentary system where the head of government can dissolve the government. Co-equal branches.”
Boltansky, whose base case is a “modest” tax-cut package in the first half of 2018, said this back-and-forth was a “headwind” for any policy push by the GOP.
“These types of public spats are to be expected, especially given the lack of clear legislative victories and the state of American politics,” he said, “but it is admittedly worrisome given that these two men are pivotal in guiding the GOP’s legislative agenda.”