A little more than an hour after expressing his disgust with Congress for “not getting the job done” passing his agenda, President Trump emerged from a working lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House on Monday to declare that he and the Kentucky Republican are “fighting for the same thing.”
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Trump, flanked by McConnell, told reporters in the Rose Garden before a surprise press conference. “My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.”
“We’re probably now, as far as I’m concerned, closer than we’ve ever been before,” the president said. “And the relationship is very good. We’re fighting for the same thing.”
Trump’s comments came amid growing tensions between Trump and Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.
The president has repeatedly attacked GOP Sens. Bob Corker, John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as the Senate majority leader for failing to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Back in August, McConnell painted the president as an unrealistic political novice, saying, “I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.” That remark led Trump to lash out on Twitter.
“Mitch, get back to work,” the president wrote.
On Monday, the pair tried to put on a unified front for the public.
“I have a great relationship with political people,” Trump said Monday. “Just so you understand, the Republican party is very, very unified.”
McConnell returned the pleasantries, saying that he and the president are “together totally on this agenda, to move America forward.”
Trump said that the administration and GOP leaders are hoping to get tax reform by the end of the year — though McConnell cautioned that it may not happen until early next year.
The president briefly returned to his oft-repeated and widely debunked talking point that the United States is the most heavily taxed nation on earth.
“We’re the highest-taxed country in the world,” Trump said. “And yet we may get no Democrat support.”
The president also declared that McConnell, who failed to rally support for the Senate’s latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, will take up a vote on health care in early to mid-2018.
“We’re getting closer to health care,” Trump said. “I think we already have the votes. I feel very confident we have the votes.”
Speaking to reporters before a Cabinet meeting earlier Monday, Trump acknowledged that his administration has failed to get significant legislation through Congress.
“We’re not getting the job done,” Trump said before quickly distancing himself from his congressional counterparts. “I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done.”
Trump was asked about the “war” that Steve Bannon, his former White House chief strategist, has declared on establishment Republicans running for reelection.
“I know how he feels. Depends on who you’re talking about,” Trump said. “There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves. But most of them — I tell you what, I know the Republican senators, most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard, and they want to do a great thing for the American public.”
At his Rose Garden appearance, Trump said he would try to talk Bannon out of battling at least some members of the GOP.
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