Spotlight: Trump, McConnell proclaim GOP unity amid feud

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-17 12:25:33|Editor: liuxin
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to convey a message of comity on Monday amid months of feuding over a stalled legislative agenda, in a wide-ranging White House press conference in which the president also addressed a string of goals and controversies.

At the 45-minute impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden, Trump spent most of the time dismissing months-long rumors about his rocky relationship with the powerful Republican senator.

"We've been friends for a long time," Trump told reporters as McConnell stood next to him. "I think, at least as far as I'm concerned -- closer than ever before."

"My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding," continued Trump, in sharp contrast to his tone in August when pinning blame on McConnell for failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

At that time, Trump labeled the failure to dismantle the Democratic bill as "a disgrace," while McConnell publicly suggested the president lacks an understanding of policy, saying Trump had "excessive expectations" for legislative progress.

The Monday press conference was hastily arranged after the two men met earlier for lunch, over a month after McConnell's last White House appearance when Trump bypassed him and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to cut a deal with top Democratic leaders on debt and spending.

McConnell echoed the president's remarks on Monday, also noting that they have been "friends and acquaintances for a long time."

"I think what the president and I would both like to say to you today, contrary to what some of you may have reported, we are together totally on this agenda to move America forward," he said.

Though it remains unclear why the White House staged the question-and-answer session, analysts said it was critical with the Senate set to vote this week on a budget key for Republicans to enact a sweeping tax cut.

Trump said he's pushing for the "biggest tax cuts" in the country's history. For his part, McConnell put tax reduction on the top of legislative priorities.

Their feud-ending effort also came on the heels of attacks by Trump's former top adviser, Steve Bannon, on a number of Republican members of Congress, including McConnell.

"Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment," Bannon told a conservative conference Saturday. The move highlighted growing turmoil within the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Trump Monday insisted that he has a "fantastic relationship" with Republicans in Congress, suggesting that he would talk Bannon, also a friend of his "for a long time," out of at least some plans to support hard-right primary candidates to challenge every Senate Republican who seeks re-election in 2018.

"Just so you understand, the Republican Party is very, very unified," Trump said.

McConnell said his goal as the GOP leader in the Senate is to keep the party in the majority. "The way you do that is not complicated," he said. "You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home."

The president also touched on the administration's controversial decision to halt Obamacare subsidy payments, the Russia probe, his former rival Hillary Clinton, and the NFL national anthem protests, among other things.

Furthermore, Trump mentioned plans to declare a national emergency to combat the opioid epidemic.

"The world has a drug problem, and we have it, and we'll do something about it," he said. "I'll have a major announcement on the drug problem next week."