Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back against the media narrative that his relationship with President Donald Trump is on the rocks in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
McConnell said he and the president communicate regularly to collaborate on Republican Party priorities, which include tax reform, infrastructure legislation, avoiding a government default, and continuing to seek alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
"We are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not a part of the conversation," McConnell said.
A senior White House official told CNN that meetings between Trump and McConnell are being scheduled for Congress's first week back in early September. The official said the two decided it would be better to talk in person than to set up phone calls.
White House press secretary also released a statement saying the president and McConnell "remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues."
Why were these statements necessary?
The air had to be cleared about what was really going on between these government power players. Numerous media outlets have circulated reports detailing the deterioration of the relationship between the commander in-chief and the GOP leader. Here are some of the recent reported incidents:
- Trump has criticized McConnell for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare. McConnell fired back that the president's expectations for the speed of legislative progress were unrealistic.
- The two men reportedly engaged in a "profane shouting match" during a phone conversation on Aug. 9, during which Trump accused McConnell of mishandling Obamacare repeal efforts and failing to protect the president from the Russia investigations.
- The president has been pressing McConnell to eliminate the 60-vote legislative filibuster and institute a simple majority requirement to pass legislation, something McConnell has refused to consider.
- McConnell broke rank with Trump on one of the president's primary talking points by saying, in his opinion, "most news is not fake."
Where do things really stand?
While McConnell's statement did not address the nature or health of his personal relationship with the president, his unifying comments can serve as a foundation the party can build on as it tackles the pressing issues of governance that will impact the American people.
Reports of the two men not having spoken for weeks may have been slightly out of context. Lawmakers have been out of town for the annual August recess, which means longer gaps between direct communications are not necessarily indicative of a rift.
"That’s not terribly unusual during a recess," an aide to McConnell said of the lack of recent calls with Trump, according to The Hill. "Staff and others have been in daily contact. The Treasury secretary was with the leader in Louisville on Monday, etc."
It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans to pass significant legislation if the president and the Senate leader are not on the same page. A divided party will not stand. For the sake of the conservative agenda, let's hope McConnell's statement is a true signal that personal differences can be put aside so that the issues, and the citizens of the country, can take priority.