LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Facing the digital wrath of a Republican president increasingly unhappy with legislative roadblocks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a GOP gathering in his home state on Saturday that people should not be surprised with the challenges that come with governing.
"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 during the Republican Party of Kentucky's Lincoln Dinner in Louisville.
President Donald Trump has criticized McConnell for the Senate's failure to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law despite years of promises, tweeting "that should NEVER have happened!" The perceived acrimony has fed a narrative of discord in the GOP that threatens the future of Trump's agenda, including changing the tax code and passing a national infrastructure bill. McConnell sought to quash those sentiments on Saturday, vowing to pass both and have "a permanent impact on the country."
While McConnell praised the Trump administration for his appointment of conservative judges, he seemed to remind the president where the power lies in getting those appointments on the bench.
"I like to remind people the Senate is in the personnel business," McConnell said. "There are over 1,200 appointments that a president makes that are subject to confirmation in the Senate. So, we're deeply involved."
Trump was seldom mentioned by any of the speakers, but when he was, it was in the context of McConnell's role in getting him elected. Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown said McConnell's refusal to confirm Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court is "one of the primary reasons we have a Republican president today." And Gov. Matt Bevin, who challenged McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, noted he and the senator "haven't always been the tightest of buds" but praised McConnell for getting Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I'm grateful to you for that, as an American," Bevin said.
Congressional leaders are expected begin work on changing the nation's tax code when they return to Washington after the August recess, and McConnell indicated he would not seek to partner with Democrats to get it passed. He said Senate Democrats like Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts "want to redistribute income," calling them "the party of government."
"We are, for the most part, America's private sector party. Obviously, America needs both. The question is what is the balance?" McConnell said. "The liberals are going to struggle and fight and protest every step of the way. But we're the ones in charge now, and we intend to deliver."
Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.