How does the trump – McConnell rift affect tax policy?
AILSA CHANG, host:
When it comes to senate majority leader mitch McConnell, President trump has not flinched. “Can you believe that mitch McConnell, who has been abolished and replaced for seven years, won’t be able to do this?” he wrote in a twitter attack on Kentucky republicans. Mr. Trump tried a more subtle dig on Tuesday night, just like this one.
DONALD TRUMP: we have to get rid of the so-called law of obstruction. We have to. If we don’t, the republicans will never get it. You’re wasting your time.
CHANG: it seems that the hatred between trump and McConnell has reached a new low. The New York times recently wrote that the phone call ended a blasphemous cry. But how does Mr Trump pursue one of his strongest members? We decided to call someone familiar with senator McConnell. G. Hunter Bates, his former chief of staff, is now a partner of the lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer&Feld. Good morning.
G. HUNTER BATES: good morning, elsa.
Chang: so the reality is that these two people need each other to complete their legislative agenda. What do you think is the President’s public criticism of Mr. McConnell’s risk?
BATES: well, you know, I feel like elsa, and the rhetoric about the conflict that threatens the republican agenda is overblown.
Chang: oh, how’s it going?
BATES: I don’t think at the end of the day people will be interested in whether the President and most of the leaders are playing golf in New Jersey or on a mar-a-lago holiday. I think people care about, this fall, the President and leaders will work together to solve the problem of the debt ceiling, for government funding, and eventually start once a debate about tax reform. I think this is – the point is, although the two people may have different style, they may from time to time in tweets or timing or tactical differences, but they agree that 95% of the republican agenda. I think this is really the most important point.
Often: funding the government? I mean, trump has threatened to close the border wall, but I know that McConnell has been saying that he is not interested in presiding over another government shutdown.
BATES: well, I think this is going to be part of the negotiations that are going to take place in the next few weeks, from now until September 30. I think speaker Ryan, leader mitch McConnell, house and senate republicans, and then the White House will work together. These are negotiations. They happen on a regular basis. The President has made clear his priorities. I think congress will do its best to implement as many of these priorities as possible.
CHANG: Now, you worked for McConnell for many years. And I’m just curious, when you’re observing him Now, what do you glean is his strategy in dealing with this particular President?
BATES: see? I think McConnell has done very well in his career, and he hasn’t changed. Whatever the climate is or the environment. Is he a man known for his remarkable concentration? And he has been successful in politics, because he has done a good job and has risen above his opposition, and has never done anything too much. So I think at the end of the day, McConnell gets up every morning, as he always has and won’t, you know – I don’t think the environment or the climate has a big impact on him. I think this is the key to his longevity and success.
Chang: so you don’t think that this repeated tit-for-tat thing has an impact on how many things you checked before you kept the party unified? No effect?
BATES: William Blake famously wrote that there was no conflict, no progress. I think that when you have two different styles of leaders, there will be conflicts from time to time – different styles and different backgrounds. But at the end of the day, I think the two will continue to lead their party, as well as speaker Ryan and members of congress. Again, I think the idea that any conflict here is sabotaging the agenda is exaggerated. I think they’ve been working together on tax reform for the last seven months.
When we look at the tax reform, the government and leader mitch McConnell and speaker Ryan and finance committee chairman and ways and means committee chairman, they almost every week meeting in a few months, is engaged in the tax reform. In the past week, on Monday, Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. McConnell of louisville, Kenya, stood side by side in a large campaign on tax reform.
When you listen to them and you look at them, you can see there is no daylight between them. And these — this is an administration and the senate leadership, they have reached a 100% consensus on the policy agreement, the negotiating process agreement and the political agreement on tax reform. I think that’s more of what we’re going to see.
Chang: so what I’m most interested in is you – we have two men with very different styles, on the one hand, the exaggerated trump, and on the other, the quiet steel power of McConnell. How do these two people work with these two different styles? Really fast in the seconds that we left.
BATES: yes. To look at. Partly because of his style, Mr Trump was elected. People want to shake Washington. So I thought, you know, he provided some fire and anger. I think McConnell provides a lot of stability, experience and intuition. So I think the two of them will eventually turn this off.
Changde: g. hunt Bates is senator mitch McConnell’s chief of staff. Thank you very much.
[correction: after the broadcast in the interview, the poet William Blake’s “the marriage of heaven and hell” line is wrong. Blake writes: “no conflict, no progress”, not “no conflict, no progress.”]