WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Capitol Hill today that he’s “been pretty candid” with President Trump “and with all of you that I’m not a great fan of daily tweets.”
“What I am a fan of is what he’s been actually doing,” he added. “As I look at what we might have expected from a President Mitt Romney or a President Marco Rubio or a President Jeb Bush at the beginning of their tenures in office, I can’t see much difference between what President Trump is doing and what they would have done.”
McConnell hailed Trump’s cabinet picks as “truly outstanding” and “the most conservative cabinet certainly in the time that I’ve been here and I’ve served with other Republican presidents.”
“I like what he’s doing,” he said. “I’ve not been a fan of the extra discussion that he likes to engage in, but we’re going to soldier on. We like his positions and we’re going to pursue them as vigorously as we can.”
As far as advancing agenda items in the upper chamber, McConnell acknowledged “clearly this is not one of those bipartisan kumbaya moments” and the GOP expects tax reform and the repeal of Obamacare “to be tackled Republican-only.”
Asked about heated townhalls some Republican lawmakers have confronted lately, with constituents angry that GOPs aren’t standing up to Trump or are going to strip away health coverage, the majority leader said he’s “not afraid of protesters.”
“Remember the famous Claude Rains line in Casablanca? Gambling in Casablanca, demonstrations in America, it doesn’t bother me. Everybody’s got a right to express themselves as long as they do it peacefully. I’ve got no problem with it,” he added, later noting that “if Hillary Clinton had been elected president and Chuck Schumer were the majority leader, we’d be revisiting Obamacare” because “it’s crashing.”
McConnell acknowledged that the Republicans will have to clear some 60-vote thresholds in the Senate, including in the appropriations process.
“It will require some Democratic cooperation,” he said. “And I hope they’ll conclude that with Donald Trump in the White House, the strategy that they preferred last year doesn’t work this year.”
The GOP leader also gave no indication that Congress would try to take lead on immigration issues, including the fate of some 800,000 people brought to this country illegally as children and now registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The president has a lot of latitude in this area. And you know, I think I’ll wait and react to what he chooses to do. What I did say is that I’m very sympathetic with this particular situation, with these youngsters who were brought here at an early age and who have largely grown up here. And I think the president has some sympathies for that situation too, as he expressed yesterday,” McConnell said. “So we’ll see what he decides to do.”
Asked if he believes Trump’s assertion that nobody from his campaign was in contact with Russian officials, McConnell replied, “I have no idea.”