McConnell flouts Trump, MAGA: I'm "delighted" that the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill

McConnell flouts Trump, MAGA: I'm "delighted" that the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

He voted for the bill in the Senate and by now the breach between him and Trump is irreparable, so there’s really nothing further for McConnell to lose by antagonizing him and his fans.

But even so, I was surprised to hear him so publicly enthusiastic about it this morning amid a populist backlash to the House Republicans who voted yes on Friday.

Especially after Trump uncorked this statement:

Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the “Non-Infrastructure” Bill, where only 11% of the money being wasted goes to real infrastructure. How about all of those Republican Senators that voted thinking that helping the Democrats is such a wonderful thing to do, so politically correct. They just don’t get it! Now they’ll go for the big kill—getting their second $1.9 Trillion Bill (really $5 Trillion) approved, again with RINO support. All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!

Which RINOs does he think will be voting for the reconciliation bill? There’s not a Republican within a thousand miles of the Capitol who supports that. And as I said in Saturday’s post, there’s a credible case that passing the bipartisan bill made passage of the reconciliation bill less likely, not more. Now that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have seen the roads-and-bridges bill land safely on Joe Biden’s desk, they’re free to walk away from reconciliation or cut it way back.

We don’t need to think too hard about Trump’s statement, though. He’s mad that Biden got an infrastructure win that he never managed to secure and he’s extra mad at McConnell for not having supported his “stop the steal” effort. That’s all this is about. It’s the same reason he just dropped this depth charge on Chris Christie, the first major candidate to endorse him in 2016 and a guy who worked cheek by jowl with him on debate prep as recently as last year:

Christie told a group of Republicans that it’s time to put the 2020 election behind them and for that he must pay. The same goes double for McConnell.

McConnell doesn’t care, or at least he did a decent job this morning of pretending not to:

He’s the leader of the Senate caucus, an expert operator, and importantly a man with his own power base within the party, replete with many rich donors. He’s also 79 and won’t need to face voters again until 2026. He has nothing to fear personally from antagonizing Trump. It’s the party has something to fear, that next year’s primaries will become a grudge match between the traditional Republican wing led by McConnell and the MAGA populist wing led by Trump. The more common that is, the better off Democrats will be in the general election. McConnell won’t throw any punches at Trump directly for that reason only. In fact, despite blaming him for the insurrection in January, he continues to say — absurdly — that he’ll support Trump if he’s the 2024 nominee for president:

To top it all off, McConnell has pledged to vote for Trump if he’s a 2024 nominee. Asked by The Post in an interview whether he would support Trump as the nominee “no matter what he’s done,” McConnell said he would “obviously” back the GOP’s presidential pick. How could he square that pledge with saying Trump had caused an insurrection? McConnell said it was “pretty simple,” because he would follow his party’s wishes.

Will McConnell try to recruit a primary challenger to Trump in 2024 behind the scenes? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you’re one of the Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill but you don’t have the juice within the party that McConnell does, you’re left scrambling for ways to deflect the charge that you’re a RINO before you get primaried over it. The most creative spin so far has come from Nicole Malliatokis, the freshman from Staten Island. Initially she framed her vote for the bipartisan bill as anti-progressive: “I weakened their hand. They have no leverage now. I voted against AOC and the squad tonight.” That didn’t spare her from Trump’s statements about RINOs, though.

So she’s taken a new approach to get back in his good graces. She’s crediting *him* (partially) for the passage of the bill. When in doubt with Trump, flatter, flatter, flatter:

She won by seven points in her last election but that district is blue enough to have gone Democratic in 2018. If Malliotakis is ousted in a primary, that seat becomes a little more winnable for Democrats. Although maybe not a lot, given the Republican climate next fall.

The best hope for her and the other Republicans who voted yes on infrastructure is for the reconciliation bill to go belly up because Democrats ultimately can’t agree among themselves. In that case, the GOPers who supported the bipartisan bill will claim that they gave centrists like Manchin the leverage they needed to tank the Build Back Better process and walk away. Speaking of which, here’s the leader of the centrist Democrats in the House, Josh Gottheimer, who promised to support the House reconciliation bill so long as it’s deficit-neutral according to the forthcoming CBO score. And what if it *isn’t* deficit-neutral? Hmmmmm.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023