News & Politics

Trump and McConnell Can't Stand Each Other, and Now Their Private Feud Is Going Public

The Senate majority leader is reportedly fuming over the president's demands to end the filibuster.

Mitch McConnell
Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Do any two Republicans deserve each other more than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump? The two are now locked in a battle that apparently has devolved into complete non-communication, following "a profane shouting match" between the two. Fun times.

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. […]

In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.

During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

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Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.

They both think the other is incompetent, and they are both probably right. In seven years, McConnell totally failed to come up with any kind of health care proposal that could win passage as an Affordable Care Act replacement. During the whole debacle, Trump remained uninformed, disconnected, and pretty much a liability every time he big-footed his way into the fight.  But it's not just about health care, though that's certainly the most visible and public fight and failure.

McConnell is pissed at Trump's demands that he gets rid of the filibuster on legislation and that Trump doesn't seem to understand or care how any of this works, and has " expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly." He was reportedly incensed by Trump's performance minimizing the white supremacist, violent assault on Charlottesville, and Trump's unhinged press conference where McConnell's wife, Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao, stood next to him while he unleashed his bigoted torrent. (Chao doesn't distinguish herself here, by the way. Asked about the tension between Trump and McConnell, she told reporters "I stand by my man—both of them.")

Trump's continuing attacks on Republican Senate incumbents and his meddling in their primaries isn't helping the relationship, either. All of this doesn’t bode well for the immediate term—Trump really could lash out and punish McConnell by refusing to fund the government or raise the debt ceiling, just because McConnell wants those things to happen. On the other hand, it bodes well for the opposition in 2018 and for stopping as much of Trump's agenda as might come before Congress.

In the end, this is McConnell's just desserts. He created this monster. Now he has to live with it.

 

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Joan McCarter is the Senior Political Writer for Daily Kos.