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Trump renews attacks on Republican leadership

Mitch McConnell leads Republicans in the US senate and has been at the receiving end of Trump’s ire after a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to pass.

world Updated: Aug 24, 2017 23:04 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Mitch McConnell,Paul Ryan
Donald Trump arrives at the White House in Washington on August 23, 2017.(NYT)

Back in Washington from a raucous tour of Arizona, US President Donald Trump escalated his battle with the Republican leadership on Thursday, publicly venting his frustration with their failure to advance his legislative agenda, especially the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

“The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed! That should NEVER have happened!” Trump tweeted, the two exclamation marks and capitalised “NEVER” conveying his frustration.

McConnell leads Republicans in the US senate and has been at the receiving end of Trump’s ire after a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, as Obamacare is officially called, failed to pass.

Trump has also been angry with fellow Republican John McCain, whose deciding vote caused the bill to repeal Obamacare to fail. Trump, without naming him, attacked the Arizona senator at a rally on Tuesday.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted that he had asked McConnell and House speaker Paul Ryan to tie the contentious debt ceiling bill — to enable the federal government to borrow — to the popular Veteran Affairs Reforms bill that was recently passed, but “they didn’t … Could have been so easy-now a mess!”

These attacks came just the day after the White House issued a statement dismissing reports about Trump and McConnell’s worsening relationship, saying they “remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues”.

There have been reports that the two leaders have not spoken for a long time and their last conversation, on phone, had turned into a “profane shouting match”, according to The New York Times. The publication had said McConnell had privately wondered if Trump could save his presidency from recent crises.

The two have been engaged in a very public spat, with McConnell — whose wife Elaine Chao is the transportation secretary — saying that Trump being new to “this line of work … had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process”.

Trump needs the support of both McConnell and Ryan to advance his legislative agenda, on which there has been little progress — Obamacare is still around, getting funding the border wall has been a struggle, and there is no sight of his vaunted infrastructure development and tax reforms.

Critics and allies both have been dismayed by Trump’s public spat with his key leaders on Capitol Hill, despite the fact that it was McConnell who delivered Trump his biggest legislative achievement — confirming Neil Gorsuch to the vacant slot on the Supreme Court bench.

Asked if McConnell should step down, Trump told reporters recently, “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.”

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 22:35 IST