WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump scolded his own party’s Senate leader on Wednesday for the crash of the Republican drive to repeal and rewrite the Obama health care law, using Twitter to demand of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “Why not done?”
Trump fired back at the Kentucky Republican for telling a home-state audience this week that the president had “not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
The exchange came less than two weeks after the Senate’s rejection of the GOP effort to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, probably McConnell’s most jolting defeat as leader and Trump’s worst legislative loss. The House approved its version in May, but its Senate failure — thanks to defecting GOP senators — marked the collapse of the party’s attempt to deliver on vows to erase Obama’s statute it’s made since the law’s 2010 enactment.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal &Replace, why not done?”
Trump had repeatedly used Twitter to pressure McConnell to find the votes to approve the health care bill, even saying hours after its failure that GOP senators “look like fools.”
But his tweet Wednesday was an unusually personal reproach of the 33-year Senate veteran, who is deeply respected by his fellow GOP lawmakers. Trump will need him to guide the next major Republican priority — a tax system overhaul — through the chamber, and he might be a useful White House ally as investigations progress into collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
For his part, McConnell’s statement was surprising because he is typically among the capital’s most guarded politicians. When it comes to criticizing Trump, he’s seldom gone further than saying he wishes he would stop tweeting, and often refused to chime in when Trump made widely condemned comments during last year’s presidential campaign.
McConnell told the Rotary Club of Florence, Kentucky, on Monday that people think Congress is underperforming partly because “artificial deadlines, unrelated to the reality of the complexity of legislating, may not have been fully understood.”
He added that 52 is “a challenging number,” a reference to the GOP’s scant 52-48 Senate majority. “You saw that on full display a couple of weeks ago,” when McConnell failed to muster a majority to push three different Republican health care bills through the chamber.
McConnell’s Kentucky remarks also drew a tweet Wednesday from Dan Scavino Jr., the White House social media director.
“More excuses,” wrote Scavino, one of Trump’s more outspoken loyalists. “@SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years – in addition to the 7 years – to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Also joining the fray was Fox News Host Sean Hannity, a close Trump ally.
“@SenateMajLdr No Senator, YOU are a WEAK, SPINELESS leader who does not keep his word and you need to Retire!” Hannity tweeted.
Hard-right conservatives have long assailed McConnell for being insufficiently ideological and too willing to compromise.
Hours before Trump tweeted about McConnell, the president took his side when he tweeted his endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., for next week’s Senate GOP primary. McConnell has backed Strange in that multi-candidate race.
One of the challengers, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., responded angrily to Trump’s endorsement. On his campaign website, Brooks said, “Mitch McConnell and the Swamp managed to mislead the President last night.”
After Trump criticized McConnell, Brooks weighed in again, tweeting: “I agree completely, Mr. President. McConnell &Strange don’t support your agenda. I do. Reconsider endorsement.”
This is the first year Republicans have been in position to kill Obama’s law because they control the White House and Congress, making last month’s crash of their bill acutely painful for the party.
Before even taking office and after becoming president, Trump spoke often of moving legislation erasing Obama’s law rapidly through Congress. On Jan. 10 — 10 days before taking office — he told The New York Times that Congress could approve a repeal bill “probably sometime next week,” and a separate replacement measure would be passed “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”
But top congressional Republicans also fed expectations for quick work. They placed health care at the top of their 2017 agenda when the year began. In January, House leaders unveiled a schedule calling for action by late March, and McConnell said in March that he wanted Senate passage by the April recess.
Congress has begun its summer recess without passing any major legislation. It has passed legislation buttressing veterans’ health care and financing the Food and Drug Administration, and the Senate confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
McConnell told the Kentuckians that accusing Congress of no achievements was “extremely irritating.” He said lawmakers should be judged when the current two-year Congress ends in January 2019.