McConnell Quells Report of Strains With Trump

Kentucky Republican says the two and their teams are working together

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is downplaying a New York Times report of tensions between him and President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday disavowed the notion of increasing tensions between him and President Donald Trump in response to a report that their relationship had “disintegrated.”

The New York Times reported Tuesday that McConnell and Trump had grown so mutually irritated that neither had spoken to each other since an Aug. 9 phone call that turned into a “profane shouting match.”

“The president and I, and our teams, have been and continue to be in regular contact about our shared goals,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation.”

The White House on Wednesday evening also sought to tamp down talk that Trump and McConnell are at odds.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement the two “remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues.”

“They will hold previously scheduled meetings following the August recess to discuss these critical items with members of the congressional leadership and the president’s Cabinet,” Sanders said. “White House and leadership staff are coordinating regarding the details of those meetings.”

But the statement, notably, did not say that the Times report was inaccurate.

McConnell said he and the president were working together on a host of issues — some facing critical September deadlines — that Republicans hope will give them some legislative victories.

Besides a tax overhaul and infrastructure, they include Congress voting to fund the government past Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown — though that was something Trump, at a raucous rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, indicated was on the table.

The president called for a government shutdown if money to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico was not included in appropriations bills that Congress must pass within weeks after it reconvenes after Labor Day.

At the Tuesday rally, Trump did not address the Times’ story but he again said it was time to “talk to Mitch” about changing the chamber’s rules to allow for passing legislation with 51 votes.

Trump also again blasted both of Arizona’s Republican senators while on their home turf — though he didn’t address Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake by name.

In his list of congressional to-do’s, McConnell said another area he and the president were working together on involved changing the 2010 health care law “to provide relief from Obamacare.”

The Senate defeated a health care “skinny” repeal measure right before the August recess — thanks to McCain’s “no” vote.

Trump laid into McConnell in the Aug. 9 phone call in part because he believed the majority leader had dropped the ball on passing the health care bill, the Times reported. 

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.