Chill in the air as McConnell sets to sit down with Trump

Monday, October 16, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, listens Sept. 5 as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with congressional leaders.
Evan Vucci ~ Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump blames the Senate's GOP leader for the health-overhaul failure, hints at tantalizing deals with Democrats and watches his former strategist work to bulldoze the Republican establishment on Capitol Hill.

There's no need for air conditioning at the White House with that chill in the air when Trump, a public official since January, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, first elected to Congress in 1984, meet today.

"Mitch McConnell's not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes, and we have yet to do it," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of Congress since 1995. "If we're successful, Mitch McConnell's fine. If we're not, we're all in trouble. We lose our majority, and I think President Trump will not get re-elected."

Steve Bannon, back at Breitbart News after helping Trump win the presidency and serving in the West Wing, is committed to dumping McConnell, R-Ky.

In a speech to religious conservatives Saturday, Bannon put on notice some of those incumbents who are at risk of a challenge from his flank of the party. He said the lawmakers possibly can avoid that wrath if they disavow McConnell and meet other conditions.

"This is our war," Bannon said. "The establishment started it. ...You all are gonna finish it."

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine moderate who just passed up a run for governor and was a pivotal "no" vote on health care, said Bannon's rhetoric is exactly what the American people are tired of.

"They don't want this hyper-partisanship. They want us to work together. And they want us to get things done," she said.

Collins, who's served in the Senate since 1997, added Bannon's "over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful. Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader. The president needs him. I'm glad they're working together on tax reform and a lot of other issues. And I'm glad they're meeting this week."

McConnell responded to Trump's Twitter barrage after the failed health-care effort by saying the challenges of governing should come as no surprise.

"A lot of people look at all that and find it frustrating, messy. Well, welcome to the democratic process. That's the way it is in our country," McConnell said at a GOP event in Kentucky this summer.

Trump, a former Democrat, cut a deal with Democratic leaders on raising the U.S. borrowing limit and keeping the government running into the winter. The president also has talked about future arrangements, though his recent list of immigration demands soured Democrats who had seen an earlier opening for legislative progress.

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