Trump-McConnell 2020? Senate chief takes on position of wingman

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Trump-McConnell 2020? Senate chief takes on position of wingman

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s not fairly “Trump-McConnell 2020,” but it surely may as properly be.

As he runs for reelection, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is positioning himself because the president’s wingman, his trusted proper hand in Congress, remodeled from a behind-the-scenes participant right into a outstanding if typically reviled Republican like none different apart from Donald Trump himself.

“In Washington, President Trump and I are making America great again!” he declared at a rally in Kentucky, his voice rising over protesters.

Other than Democrat Nancy Pelosi — and extra lately Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — no present politician has so rapidly turn into such a high-profile object of partisan scorn. McConnell was heckled final weekend at his dwelling state’s annual “Fancy Farm” political picnic, and protesters outdoors his Louisville home hurled so many profanities that Twitter briefly shut down his account for posting video of them on-line.

Undaunted, he revels within the nickname he’s given himself — the “Grim Reaper,” bragging that he’s burying the House Democrats’ agenda — although he appears stung by one lobbed by opponents, “Moscow Mitch.”

But the Democrats’ agenda consists of gun laws to require background checks that Trump now desires to contemplate, forcing McConnell to regulate his earlier refusal to take action. The Senate chief has been right here earlier than, pushing forward with a Trump precedence that’s unpopular with most Republicans. But this may take a look at each his relationship with the president and his grip on the GOP majority.

All whereas he’s campaigning to maintain his job.

McConnell is much more depending on Trump’s recognition in Kentucky than on his personal, a special political panorama from the one he confronted in 2014, earlier than the president took the White House.

“They need each other,” says Scott Jennings, a longtime adviser to McConnell.

The new McConnell technique reveals simply how far Trump has remodeled the GOP, turning a banker’s-collar-and-cufflinks conservative right into a “Fake News!” shouting senator.

Theirs was not a straightforward alliance in Trump’s first 12 months, they usually went a protracted stretch with out speaking to one another. But two years on, McConnell has confirmed a loyal implementer of the president’s initiatives, and Trump now not assails the senator on Twitter.

Perhaps no subject has drawn the unlikely companions collectively greater than the present reckoning over nationwide gun violence. Republicans, lengthy allied with the National Rifle Association, have resisted stricter legal guidelines on firearm and ammunition gross sales. But the frequency of mass shootings and the grave toll are intensifying strain to behave.

Trump on Friday revived his curiosity in having Congress check out increasing federal background checks and different gun security legal guidelines lengthy pushed by Democrats, insisting he’ll be capable of get Republicans on board. McConnell, in a shift, mentioned he’s now keen to contemplate these concepts “front and center” when Congress returns within the fall.

Said Trump, “I think I have a greater influence now over the Senate.”

But McConnell doesn’t name himself the Grim Reaper for nothing. He is well-known on Capitol Hill for his legislative blocking abilities, having stopped a lot of the Obama administration’s agenda when he first turned Senate chief and extra lately halting payments coming from the Democratic-controlled House, together with one to broaden background checks.

“We’ve seen it before,” mentioned Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a tweet after the weekend mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. “An awful shooting occurs. @realDonaldTrump expresses interest in helping. Republicans try to get him off the hook with lesser measures. Nothing happens.”

In truth, McConnell and his allies have taken on Trump’s type, lashing out at media and political opponents. When marketing campaign volunteers got here below criticism for showing to choke a cardboard cutout of Ocasio-Cortez on the picnic in a photograph circulated on-line, McConnell allies mentioned the excessive schoolers have been being handled unfairly by opponents attempting to maliciously disgrace them in public.

The shift in McConnell’s technique is just not misplaced on Democrat Amy McGrath, the previous fighter pilot and the main Democrat hoping to win the get together’s nomination to problem him subsequent fall, her marketing campaign mentioned.

McGrath is telling Kentuckians that McConnell is a part of the issue, a long-serving chief who has stood in the best way of gun security, well being care and different laws for years, and hardly the one to satisfy Trump’s guarantees. Democrats and Republicans say she is predicted to draw loads of fundraising {dollars} and volunteers in a race that would simply strategy $100 million, second solely to the presidential contest.

“It almost feels like we have a mini-presidential campaign going on here,” mentioned Jennings.

Kentucky stays a GOP stronghold, and Trump is very common, which is a part of the explanation McConnell is tying his personal political future to the president. But it’s unclear if his is the precise technique for the instances.

With a nationwide profile, McConnell’s document is coming below extra scrutiny.

An funding in a Kentucky aluminum plant by an organization with ties to Russia has raised questions. And McConnell’s refusal to permit the Senate to contemplate a House-passed election safety invoice has resulted in opponents calling him “Moscow Mitch” following Russia’s 2016 marketing campaign interference. His marketing campaign tries to make gentle of questions surrounding the transport enterprise run by the household of his spouse, Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary.

The state’s lone Democratic congressman, John Yarmuth, whose district consists of liberal Louisville, mentioned McConnell has by no means been particularly common in Kentucky however has managed to maintain successful elections.

“He’s a survivor,” Yarmuth mentioned. “He’s in good shape only because Trump’s at the top of the ticket.”

At the weekend occasions in Kentucky, McConnell was relishing his Senate publish, telling voters that as the one member in congressional management not from New York or California, “I’m the guy that sticks up for middle America.”

At breakfast earlier than taking the stage, he mentioned he was able to tackle all comers.

“I can’t wait,” he mentioned. “There’s nothing I like better than engaging these crazy left-wingers and saving this country,” he mentioned. “And we’re going to do precisely that.”

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Associated Press author Bruce Schreiner in Louisville contributed to this report.

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Online:

Crowd rallies in opposition to McConnell’s gun laws

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