“We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden with the Kentucky Republican at his side. “We are probably now, despite what we read, we are probably now, I think, at least as far as I am concerned, we are closer than ever before and the relationship is very good. We are fighting for the same thing, we are fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation. We are fighting for tax reform as part of that.”
Just before sitting down to lunch with McConnell earlier Monday, Trump sided with the man who has proclaimed war on the Republican establishment — and the majority leader.
“We are not getting the job done,” Trump said after a reporter asked him about comments Steve Bannon, Trump’s former strategist, made at the Value Voters conference in Washington on Saturday. “And I am not going to blame myself, they are not getting the job done. We had health care approved, and then you had the surprise vote by John McCain. We have had other things happen and they are not getting the job done and I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from.”
“It’s not my war, this is our war and y’all didn’t start it, the establishment started it,” Bannon said.
He added, “Right now, it’s a season of war against a GOP establishment.”
Trump successfully ran for president by demeaning his enemies and rallying his base to deride his opponents. Those habits have followed him to the White House, and McConnell has regularly been that punching bag.
McConnell has declined to publicly respond directly to the President, instead telling reporters that he isn’t a fan of the “daily tweets.”
“I’ve been pretty candid with him and all of you that I’m not a fan of the daily tweets,” he said earlier this year.
Trump’s own aides, many of whom are tasked with working with Congress to turn Trump’s campaign promises into legislation, have privately lamented that the President’s attacks against members of his own party — most importantly McConnell — have made it more difficult to win over skeptical lawmakers.
Last week, some conservative outside groups, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, called on McConnell and other leaders in the Senate to step aside.
Even rank-and-file members say that McConnell’s in a tough position if he cannot find a way to convince a majority of Senate Republicans to back a tax cut proposal. McConnell can only lose two Republican senators and still pass a bill.
“If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” over the weekend. “It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it.”