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Trump Goes Back to Flogging McConnell Over Health Care

President’s attack Thursday afternoon comes after taking more encouraging tone

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP’s recent failure to pass health care legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP’s recent failure to pass health care legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:27 p.m. | President Donald Trump took on a more threatening tone toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday after a meandering series of messages earlier in the day.

The president started the day with a tweet that criticized the Kentucky Republican for a second day for failing to pass a health care bill, before offering an olive branch of encouragement by lunchtime.

By late afternoon, Trump deferred answering a question about whether McConnell should reconsider staying on as the Senate’s top GOP lawmaker.

“If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done — infrastructure — if he doesn’t get that done, then you should ask me that question,” the president told pool reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Trump said he wanted McConnell to aggressively push for his agenda and was disappointed when a measure to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law wasn’t ready as soon as he took office.

“[All] I hear is ‘repeal and replace’ and then I get there and I said, ‘Where’s the bill? I want to sign it, first day.’ And they don’t have it,” he said.

Trump said he was eager to do work on cutting taxes and producing a “very big” infrastructure bill that he suggested may even get bipartisan support.

“But I said, ‘Mitch, get to work and let’s get it done.’ They should have had this one done,” Trump said on the Senate Republicans’ failed health care legislation. “They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace and frankly it shouldn’t have happened, that I can tell you.”

After spending two days publicly bashing McConnell on Twitter, Trump appeared to back away from his harsher criticism early Thursday afternoon, encouraging the majority leader to “get back to work”  and send health care, tax overhaul and infrastructure bills to his desk.

 “You can do it!” the president tweeted.

That tweet came about two hours after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in Bedminster that there was “frustration” between the president and McConnell, largely stemming from the Senate’s failed attempt at health care legislation.

“You can see the president’s tweets. Obviously, there’s some frustration,” she said. “I don’t have anything more to add.”

Sanders told reporters Trump and McConnell spoke recently about health care but she did not know for how long.

On Wednesday, Trump asked “Why not done?” in a tweet directed squarely at McConnell.

Trump tweeted early Thursday to once again complain about the Senate not having the votes to pass any form of legislation that aimed to undo the 2010 health care law.

“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” he said.

The Senate, as well as the House, are in recess until September.

The Trump-McConnell duel began earlier this week when the Kentucky Republican said at a Rotary Club meeting in his home state that Trump had set some “excessive expectations” about how aggressively he could move his agenda through Congress.

Trump’s Wednesday tweet followed one by senior White House aide Dan Scavino Jr., who said, “More excuses. @SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years — in addition to the 7 years — to repeal and replace Obamacare.”