In a pair of tweets targeting “Mitch M” and “Paul R,” Trump accused them of creating “a mess” in the challenge Congress faces to raise the federal debt ceiling when lawmakers return from recess in September.
The U.S. Treasury is due to hit the debt ceiling at some point in October, and a failure to raise it to pay the government’s bills could spur financial chaos. But hard-core conservative Republicans in Congress could block raising the ceiling by insisting such legislation include big cuts in federal spending.
Trump has repeatedly lambasted GOP lawmakers for supposedly not working with him on legislative priorities, such as the debt ceiling and tax reform. Yet his lack of overtures toward them and continuing attacks perhaps are further worsening relations.
On Tuesday night at a raucous rally in Arizona, the president threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not provide funding for his signature campaign promise, a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have stressed that they remain unalterably opposed to such funding.
Trump at his rally also repeatedly attacked Republican lawmakers and singled out McConnell, telling the crowd, “We have to speak to Mitch.”
Trump and McConnell reportedly have had a particularly frosty relationship, with the two men having not spoken for weeks, according to The New York Times.
Trump, particularly angered by the multiple investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in last year’s election, reportedly yelled at McConnell for not doing more to “protect him” from the probes, the Times reported.
On Wednesday, both the White House and McConnell’s office pushed back against the article, releasing carefully worded statements that insisted that their relationship was fine.
“We are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation,” McConnell said.
The White House similarly asserted that Trump and McConnell “remain united on many shared priorities.”
Yet an hour after his original tweets on Thursday, Trump again complained about McConnell, going after him for Republicans’ failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP has long promised.
In addition to antagonizing McConnell, Trump has drawn ire from Republican leaders for criticizing GOP senators up for re-election next year, especially Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada. In Flake’s case, he has also met with and praised a candidate planning to challenge the incumbent in next year’s Republican primary.
This story has been updated with additional context and Trump tweets.