Some of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Capitol Hill colleagues are weighing in on his feud with President Trump, saying that neither he nor Trump is completely correct by blaming each other for Congress’ failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Senate Republicans are not exactly circling the wagons around McConnell, but they’re also far from condemning his leadership. Instead, some are acknowledging that all congressional Republicans who ran on scrapping Obamacare share some blame.
“The bottom line is our bill did not test well,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said when asked about the spat during a radio interview.
“I like Mitch,” Graham continued, “but for eight years we've been saying we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It's not like we made this up overnight.”
While all Senate Republicans had input in the drafting of the health care plan, it was written by a smaller group of Senate leaders, McConnell chief among them.
The dustup began when McConnell said during an event in Kentucky Monday that Trump had set unrealistic deadlines for notching big legislative victories which marred the health care effort.
“Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before. And I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” McConnell said.
Trump fired back with a litany of tweets turning the blame back on the Kentucky Republican.
Senator Mitch McConnell said I had "excessive expectations," but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2017
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, suggested he thought the president’s expectations weren’t off-base.
"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 on Fox News.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., wouldn’t opine on Trump’s words or “tactics,” but said it’s up to lawmakers to come up with health care solutions, with the White House playing a supporting role.
“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,” he said.
In focusing more on Congress’ responsibility to pick up the dropped ball on health care, Republicans appear to be indirectly dismissing Trump as a major policy player, at least on this issue. Trump repeatedly tweeted directions at Republicans –- often contradictory -– that did not seem to influence the internal debates either way.
One Republican source close to McConnell’s fellow Kentuckian Sen. Rand Paul said the majority leader did everything in his power to bring an Obamacare repeal vehicle over the finish line in order to begin negotiations with the House over a comprehensive bill. The so-called “skinny repeal” bill fell short of passage 49-51, with three Republicans voting against it.
“It failed by one vote even on a scaled down repeal,” the source said. “This was a failure of certain members to do what was promised. Senator McConnell brought to the floor whipped and voted for the two clean repeal bills.”
But at least one Congressional Republican is piling on McConnell -– Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a Trump supporter running for the Senate, who expressed shock when Trump endorsed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange for Alabama’s special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Brooks has sought to differentiate himself from Strange, an appointee who has only served in the Senate six months, by pegging him to the DC establishment.