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Corker: ‘I Understand Sentiment' Behind Calls for Trump Competency Test

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) arrives in the Capitol for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Oct. 17, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has traded criticisms with the White House in recent weeks following his announcement that he will not seek re-election, jokingly said on Thursday that he understands the sentiment behind the proposal to implement a presidential competency test.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution in August calling for President Trump to complete a physical and mental health exam to ensure he’s fit to remain in office. Corker, while speaking at the American Enterprise Institute today, was asked if the president should undergo the test.

“Oh no, we’re not going to go there right now,” AEI host Vincent H. Smith said, while reminding a laughing audience that the forum was held to discuss U.S. foreign aid.

“Well, I’m glad to go there,” Corker replied.

“But senator, this is food aid,” Smith said.

The audience member claimed his roommate had asked him to pose the question.

“Thank your roommate for his question,” Corker said. “I understand his sentiments, or her sentiments.”

Trump claimed earlier this month via Twitter that Corker decided not to seek re-election in 2018 after the president refused to endorse him, despite Corker’s “begging.” Corker fired back in his own tweet, describing the White House as an “adult day care center,” and quipping that someone “obviously missed their shift this morning.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called out Corker again this week during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Hopefully, he’ll get out of the name calling and get back to work here pretty soon,” she said.

Corker, during his appearance at AEI, expounded on the unique makeup of the Trump White House, which he said is “made up of a real cast of characters.” The Tennessee lawmaker, who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, successfully convinced the president to drop an executive order that would have required all U.S. food aid to be transported using American ships.

Current law dictates that 50 percent of U.S. food aid be transported on American ships, but the executive order which Trump abandoned would have boosted that number to 100 percent. Corker has railed against cargo preferences and other practices he believes would increase the price of foreign aid and result in millions more starving around the world.

“You have to time your interdictions at the appropriate time (with this White House),” Corker said, while repeatedly pausing and appearing to carefully consider his words. “A White House is made up a large number of people, and especially in this particular arrangement and the type of campaign that took place, there are a lot of people who have nativist instincts that exist there that are contrary to some more proven norms, and so I just made a phone call to the president directly. Don’t get me wrong – this is not over. It stopped it at that moment, but these forces within will continue, and so we’ve got to continue to use reason.”

Corker worked with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) in crafting the Food for Peace Reform Act, which they say would free up as much as $440 million annually by reforming U.S. food aid practices and deliver food to an additional 8 to 12 million people.

“The president, to his credit, got it,” Corker said. “He understood. The base case – I’m sorry, but I don’t know how anybody could disagree with the base case, and in this particular case, he got it, and I appreciated it very much.”

Corker also lamented America’s growing mountain of debt, which has exceeded $20 trillion. He said that the financial irresponsibility of Congress is going to mean less U.S. aid.

“We’re at a moment in time where I see the least discipline in what we’re doing that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It’s like it’s party time,” Corker said, noting that about 70 percent of spending is mandatory. “We’re our greatest threat to ourselves. … It will be our downfall. It will cause us to be less generous around the world because we won’t have the resources to do so.”