Open Warfare: Trump vs. McConnell
The Outsider Confronts The Establishment
What began as President Trump’s frustration over the Senate’s failure to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s defense of Senate procedures has morphed into open warfare with the President’s suggestion that McConnell step aside if he can’t pass the Trump agenda.
Speaking to reporters and taking aim at McConnell, Trump demanded Thursday that McConnell move ahead on the administration’s priorities regardless of the current Congressional recess.
“You can ask the question about whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should remain in his position if he cannot pass a plan to repeal and replace health care, change the tax code and move an infrastructure proposal,” Trump said.
The direct challenge to the Majority Leader came after McConnell told a Kentucky audience this week that Trump had not been in “this line of work before” and had “excessive expectations” about how quickly things get done in the democratic process.
This clearly incensed the President who is under pressure to deliver on his campaign promises to the millions of grassroots voters who helped to put him in the White House. It also revealed the gaping divide between two men of vastly different life experience.
Trump is a chief executive officer accustomed to crafting an agenda, executing plans, and holding colleagues and subordinates accountable; McConnell is a consensus builder preoccupied with power-sharing to maintain his own leadership position.
The Trump-McConnell split also reveals the priorities of Trump the outsider and McConnell the establishment leader. Trump became President in spite of opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. He swept the Republican primaries and caucuses and beat Hillary Clinton almost single-handedly. His constituents are still on display at recent rallies reminiscent of the raucous Trump gatherings of 2016.
McConnell is no different from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in still experiencing the shock of last November 8. McConnell’s allegiance belongs to big GOP donors, K Street lobbyists, and the United States Chamber of Commerce. These are the interests that stuff the Majority Leader’s campaign coffers that elect his friends, make them committee chairmen, and keep him in power. He owes nothing to the voiceless voters who remain loyal to Trump.
The Trump agenda is now in the hands of McConnell loyalists. Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate committee crucial to health policy, will pursue healthcare reform when the Senate returns in September. He is committed to a bipartisan approach to any Obamacare overhaul. Orrin Hatch, Finance Committee Chairman, is in charge of tax reform. He has stated that he has no use for further discussion of healthcare. Infrastructure spending has an outside chance of bipartisan support in various Senate committees.
The Trump-McConnell feud will continue to boil in September when Congress must pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1 and will face the inevitable vote to raise the debt ceiling. There will be precious little time in the remainder of the year to revisit Obamacare reform, consider the complex task of overhauling the tax code, or debate what promises to be an expensive and unwieldy infrastructure bill.
There is no erasing the differences between Trump and McConnell when it comes to legislative priorities and the desires to please competing constituencies. The Trump presidency will continue to challenge McConnell’s cozy Washington establishment. The battle will continue with no truce in sight.
Image Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
License: CC BY-SA 2.0
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.