President Donald Trump raised the possibility Thursday 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.
In remarks to reporters outside his golf resort, Trump escalated his attacks on the Kentucky Republican over last month’s collapse in the Senate of GOP legislation repealing and rewriting much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
Trump said he also wanted passage of measures revamping the tax code and pumping billions into infrastructure programs, two of his top remaining priorities.
Asked if McConnell should consider resigning from his leadership post, the president said, “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.”
Trump’s criticism gave voice to a view harbored by many hard-right conservatives about the 33-year Senate veteran, who they consider far too willing to give ground.
It’s highly unusual for a president to publicly suggest leadership changes in Congress.
It also seems unlikely that Trump’s sentiments would seriously threaten McConnell’s job. He is strongly respected by nearly all GOP senators, who concede that with a slender 52-48 majority, it would have been difficult for anyone to steer the health care measure through the Senate.
Late last month, the chamber rejected three plans pushed by McConnell to replace Obama’s law. The final one was defeated 51-49 after three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no — one more than McConnell could afford to lose.
“They lost by one vote,” Trump said. “For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace. And frankly, it shouldn’t have happened.”
Trump’s comments came after he used Twitter three times over the past two days to taunt McConnell over the health care crash, expressing disbelief that McConnell couldn’t persuade a GOP majority to pass a bill.
“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 Thursday morning.