Trump’s Fractured Relationship With Congress Causes GOP Dread – NPR

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President Trump speaks as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., looks on during a meeting with House and Senate leadership at the White House in June.

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images


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Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump speaks as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., looks on during a meeting with House and Senate leadership at the White House in June.

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

Updated 10 a.m. ET

Escalating tension between Capitol Hill and the White House is threatening the GOP’s legislative agenda and testing the bonds of party unity under the Trump administration.

An unscripted and angry President Trump unloaded on Congress at a campaign rally in Phoenix, leaving lawmakers increasingly apprehensive about the party’s ambitious fall agenda that includes an overhaul of the entire federal tax code.

Instead of hammering that message, the president used his bully pulpit to criticize Republicans for failing to pass a long-promised health care bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.


“Obamacare is a disaster and think — think! We were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming ‘repeal and replace!’ One vote away!” Trump said, in reference to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast the decisive vote in the Senate.

Trump did not name McCain, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, but his intention was clear.

“It’s disappointing is probably the most nice thing I can say about that,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told CNN in response to Trump’s comments about McCain.


Trump also implicitly attacked Arizona’s junior senator, Jeff Flake, who has been one of the party’s most vocal Trump critics. The president said Flake is “weak on borders and weak on crime” and that “nobody knows who the hell he is.”

The president called on the Senate to end the chamber’s defining characteristic — the filibuster — in order to lower the threshold for most legislation from 60 votes to 51 and force his agenda through Congress. There is bipartisan opposition to doing so in the Senate. The health care bill failed in July despite being produced under a process that required only 51 votes.


Trump even threatened a government shutdown in September if Republicans don’t deliver him a spending bill that includes the money he wants to start building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down the government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said, to a cheering crowd in Arizona, just hours after visiting a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump “has definite plans to make sure that it gets built,” but would not reiterate the shutdown threat.

At a Wednesday event in Oregon to promote upcoming tax legislation, House Speaker Paul Ryan was instead forced to answer questions over whether Republicans are going to shut down the government. “I don’t think anyone is interested in having a shutdown. I don’t think it is in our interests to do so,” Ryan told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to tamp down on reports that he and the president are at odds and have not spoken in weeks.

In a statement on Wednesday, McConnell said he is in “regular contact” with Trump about their “shared goals” that include tax, infrastructure and defense bills, as well as plans to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, the nation’s legal borrowing limit needed to pay the nation’s bills.

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