WASHINGTON, U.S. - When the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell made a statement claiming Trump has “excessive expectations” - Trump did not take the statement lightly.
He fired back at McConnell, leaving several people, including McConnell and his allies shocked.
According to people close to the Senate GOP leader, McConnell did not intend to pick a fight when he questioned Trump’s expectations. He was also said to be surprised by the explosion his comments produced.
On Wednesday, McConnell and Trump spoke about what McConnell’s allies characterized as a misunderstanding, but that did little to quell the president’s anger.
On Friday, Trump said from his New Jersey golf club, "We should have had healthcare approved. [McConnell] should have known that he had a couple of votes that turned on him and that should have been very easy to handle, whether it's through the fact that can take away a committee chairmanship or do whatever you have to do."
According to sources close to McConnell, he is stunned by Trump's attacks, which have only increased in recent days, as an attack on a member of his own team.
However, others in the Trump administration think McConnell should have seen it coming.
One of the senior administration official has expressed “100 percent agreement” with the president that McConnell has not done enough to advance his legislative agenda.
The source is said to have cited McConnell’s failure to pass healthcare reform and the record-slow pace in confirming his nominees to key executive branch positions.
The administration, which had delegated the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare to McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The source said, “People think Mitch maybe has lost a step.”
Meanwhile, McConnell has argued that he worked hard and exhausted every option to pass ObamaCare repeal legislation, that senators just left town for a four-week break from Washington.
Trump allies reportedly complain that while McConnell vowed to “burn the midnight oil” to get things accomplished in the majority, that hasn’t happened in practice.
McConnell had deftly avoided confrontations with Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.
However, on Monday, he said Trump “had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the Democratic process.”
Scott Jennings, a former senior political adviser to the Kentucky lawmaker, said McConnell was merely offering a “dispassionate, emotionless” view of “the reality of Washington, which is things happen more slowly than we would like.”
Jennings said, “I believe politics is a team sport and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have largely been on the same team not only for the past few months, but dating back to Mitch McConnell’s most recent reelection campaign,” when Trump gave $50,000 to support McConnell’s reelection.
However, the remark angered Trump and earlier this week, he dismissed McConnell’s analysis of his “excessive expectations with a curt “I don’t think so” via Twitter and took a more personal shot by voicing disbelief that the leader “couldn’t get it done” after having “screamed repeal and replace for seven years.”
As the weekend drew close, Trump, speaking to reporters suggested that McConnell maybe should step down as Senate majority leader, his career-long dream, if he fails to deliver on tax reform and infrastructure.
McConnell has spent three months negotiating legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare and was one vote short of sending a bill to conference.
The source close to McConnell said, “Trump’s reaction was way disproportionate.”
McConnell’s allies claim Trump has reason to be frustrated over the Senate’s failure to pass healthcare legislation.
A McConnell ally said, “It was also a strategic blunder because no one is more important than McConnell to Trump’s agenda,” arguing that Trump needs a savvy field general to get his agenda passed through the Senate, where the threshold for controversial bills is often 60 votes.
Allies also pointed out that McConnell delivered Trump’s biggest win since the election by holding open the Supreme Court seat left open by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell also changed the Senate rules to confirm Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, to the seat.
Many in McConnell camp think Trump blew the episode out of proportion, and some wonder if a Trump ally may have an ax to grind with the Senate leader.
Jennings has said, “I don’t know if President Trump got bad advice from somebody or if somebody’s trying to portray it to him in a way that isn’t real. When you’re trying to vent your anger and frustration at somebody, you’ve got to remember who’s wearing what jersey. McConnell and Trump are wearing the same jersey.”
All in all, insiders claim that in the battle between Trump and McConnell, most GOP senators are making clear their loyalties lie with the Senate leader.