Republican President Donald Trump’s first month in office is the sort of beginning that any other Republican president may have had, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday.
“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, R-Ky. told a Capitol news conference.
Trump’s chaotic first month has included an appeals court rejection of his travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations, the forced resignation of his national security adviser, the withdrawal of his nominee for labor secretary and a series of leaks that portray a White House beset by infighting.
McConnell’s news conference came hours before Congress left Washington for its first extended recess since Trump became president. Democrats and their allies are planning protests around the nation while lawmakers are home.
McConnell did have some criticism of Trump, saying he’s not comfortable with the president’s use of Twitter as his preferred method communication.
But the senator made it clear he’s enthusiastic about Trump’s governing.
“I’m not a great fan of daily tweets. What I am a fan of is what he is actually doing,” McConnell said.
He called Trump’s Cabinet selections “truly outstanding, the most conservative Cabinet certainly in the time I’ve been” in the Senate. As McConnell was speaking, the Senate was debating the controversial nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was later confirmed on a largely party-line vote.
McConnell said he “chose not to” delay the confirmation of Pruitt in spite of a judge’s Thursday order that Pruitt must turn over thousands of emails related to his communications with the oil and gas industry as attorney general of Oklahoma.
Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, has spent much of his time as Oklahoma’s top lawyer suing the EPA he’s been picked to lead, and Democrats had asked for the delay in the vote.
“The (Democrats’) goal here is to feed the base, to give people a chance to get organized, complain, and they want to have Pruitt out there over the recess so all of their supporters can express themselves,” McConnell said.
Another Trump Cabinet selection is Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, as secretary of transportation.
Among Trump positions shared by McConnell is the pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But Republicans have no agreement on a replacement for Obamacare, and at least some top Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to “repair” rather than wholesale repeal.
McConnell said Friday that Senate Republicans were “100 percent committed as a team to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
He dodged when pressed on whether that would happen this year, indicating the timing is uncertain.
“Just as soon as we have the votes,” he said.
He conceded the plan for Obamacare replacement is not clear.
“I can’t give you, and even if I could I wouldn’t today, every part of where we are headed,” he said.