Trump again calls out McConnell over health care failure

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump resumed his public feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday morning over Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” the President tweeted.

The tweet continues a public exchange of criticism between the two Republican leaders this week, exhibiting further tension between the White House and Congress. On Tuesday, McConnell said Trump had ‘”excessive expectations” for the legislative progress of his agenda and suggested there was a false perception that Congress is underperforming in part “because of too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality of the legislature, which may have not been understood.”

Trump responded to that criticism Wednesday, tweeting: “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”

A White House official told CNN Trump and McConnell spoke about the path forward on health care Wednesday and did not dispute that it was an animated conversation. Asked about that conversation, Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, responded, “I don’t have any readouts of his calls.”

In response to Trump’s tweet, he provided the same statement released by McConnell’s office in response to Trump’s Wednesday comments: “The leader has spoken repeatedly about the path forward regarding Obamacare repeal on the Senate floor, at media availabilities multiple times and in Kentucky.”

Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media and a close aide to Trump, also hit back earlier Wednesday against the Kentucky Republican. Scavino, who has ardently defended the President against critics in the past, posted McConnell’s exact remarks on his personal Twitter and added his own take.

“More excuses. @SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years – in addition to the 7 years — to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Scavino wrote.

Scavino’s tweet echoed Twitter attacks that Trump himself has made against congressional Republicans. Late last month, the weekend after the Senate failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Trump made a series of tweets attacking Republicans and urging them to change Senate rules to allow bills to pass with a 51-vote majority, rather than 60.

“Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time,” he wrote in one tweet.

However, Republicans were already operating under “budget reconciliation,” which would have allowed them to pass health care legislation with a 51-vote majority. And since Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, they could have passed it if the party was united, but three Republicans defected and the bill failed to advance.

Reconciliation can only be used once each fiscal year, and if Republicans want to use it again on upcoming legislative efforts like tax reform, they must first pass a budget for the fiscal year 2018.

Four big things that could stand in the way of tax reform

Asked about the Trump-McConnell feud on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, acknowledged, “We should have gotten this done. The ball was in our court.”

“I’ll let this President speak for himself and his tactics,” he later said. “The fact of the matter is we need to come up with the policies to reduce premiums. That’s what we’ll be talking about. We need to be honest in terms of what the root cause analysis is. That’s in the lap of Congress, in the lap of the House and the Senate. Obviously, we need as much help and support from the administration as well as we’re doing this.”

Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who was asked about McConnell’s comments on Fox News Wednesday morning, also disagreed that the President had “excessive expectations” and made the case that Democrats were to blame.

“I think the President’s expectations was that we would work together to get these things done and frankly we haven’t had a lot of buy-in from the Democrats on this stuff, and that’s too bad,” he said.