Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, walks to the floor of the Senate from his office after a GOP meeting on healthcare at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

McConnell Hits Back at Trump After Series of Policy Curve Balls

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chided President Donald Trump for recent policy demands, pushing back on the president’s threat to close the southern U.S. border and taking credit for halting Trump’s call for GOP lawmakers to overhaul Obamacare.

McConnell told reporters Tuesday he thought Trump’s suggestion last week that he would close the border to prevent further illegal immigration would have a “potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country and we would hope he would not be doing that.”

And asked if there was political risk in Trump’s demand for Republicans to craft a new comprehensive health-care plan, McConnell smiled and said, “not any longer” -- taking credit for persuading Trump to delay this policy push. McConnell said he spoke to Trump Monday and explained the difficulty of passing further changes to the Affordable Care Act. Hours later, Trump said on Twitter that the party could wait until after the 2020 election.

“We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon, and I pointed out to him the Senate Republicans’ view on dealing with comprehensive health-care reform with a Democratic House of Representatives," McConnell said after a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans.

McConnell’s comments were a rare snub of the president, coming just weeks after he stood by Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to use more taxpayer money for a border wall.

Trump’s policy announcements in recent days have sent exasperated Republicans scrambling, including his call to close the border and cut aid to three Central American nations, along with the administration’s new effort in court to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.

McConnell also contradicted Trump, who had just told reporters at the White House that it was his idea to delay a GOP Obamacare replacement plan until after 2020.

"No, I wanted to delay it myself,” Trump said. “I want to put it after the election. Because we don’t have the House." He added, "When the plan comes out, which we’ll be showing you at the appropriate time -- it’s much better than Obamacare."

Trump also seemed to retreat from his threat to close the border, saying Tuesday that he is ready to follow through but that the Mexican government had begun preventing migrants from entering the U.S.

"I’m totally prepared to do it,” Trump said. “We’re going to see what happens over the next few days."

Trump said in a tweet Friday that he would fully or partially close the border this week because of a spike in undocumented migrants entering the country. Customs and Border Protection said it apprehended more than 66,000 people in February, up from about 48,000 in January. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said apprehensions are estimated to approach 100,000 in March.

Other Senate Republicans echoed McConnell’s concern about the economic impact of shutting down the flow of people and goods across the U.S. border with Mexico. Second-ranking Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota called the threat “a bad idea.”

“I think that has some profound economic consequences that would be adverse to our country’s interests,” Thune said.

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