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Republican senators rally around Mitch McConnell following Trump's attacks

081117 GOP senators McConnell support pic
McConnell joins a growing list of Republicans who have earned the president's ire. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Republican senators are coming to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's defense after President Trump leveled a series of attacks against him this week.

Trump and McConnell's feud began when the Senate majority leader, speaking Monday at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky, said the president's "excessive expectations" hindered the Senate's ability to pass major legislation, including a bill overhauling the healthcare system.

McConnell's comments were rebuked by Trump, who took to his Twitter account Wednesday and Thursday to criticize the Senate majority leader.

"Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,' but I don't think so," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?"

"Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done," the president said Thursday. "Must Repeal & Replace Obamacare!"

Speaking to reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday, the president declined to say whether he believes McConnell, R-Ky., should step down as majority leader. Instead, Trump urged reporters to ask him the question again should McConnell fail to address the top items on the president's legislative agenda.

"Well, I'll tell you what, if he doesn't get repeal and replace done, if he doesn't get taxes done — meaning cuts and reform —and if he doesn't get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, if he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question," Trump said.

Though the president has cast doubt over McConnell's future as majority leader, GOP senators are pouring cold water over the suggestion that McConnell should step down.

"@SenateMajLdr has been the best leader we've had in my time in the Senate, through very tough challenges. I fully support him," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Thursday on Twitter.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., who themselves have been on the receiving end of Trump's criticisms, also reiterated their support for McConnell.

".@SenateMajLdr does a tough job well," Flake tweeted Thursday. "He has my support."

"I look forward to @SenateMajLdr's leadership as we work to reduce Americans' taxes," Heller said on his Twitter account.

Republicans still have a lengthy list of items to complete after returning from the August recess, including several issues topping Trump's agenda, and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, encouraged Trump to work with McConnell, instead of against him.

"Passing POTUS's legislative agenda requires a team effort. No one is more qualified than Mitch McConnell to lead Senate in that effort," he tweeted Friday.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., echoed Cornyn's calls for unity within the GOP, and credited McConnell with getting Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee for Supreme Court justice, confirmed.

"As a former Speaker in NC, I know how difficult it is to manage a diverse caucus with different viewpoints and push major legislation. @SenateMajLdr is the single biggest reason why Neil Gorsuch is now a SCOTUS justice," Tillis said in a series of tweets. "@SenateMajLdr will continue to lead our caucus & bring us closer together to keep the promises we made to the American people. Now more than even, all GOP officials must work together so we can advance our shared agenda to create opportunity for all Americans."

And Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he is confident McConnell will be instrumental in pushing the president's legislative priorities across the finish line.

"From health care to tax reform to infrastructure, tough issues to tackle this fall and none better than @SenateMajLdr to get a good outcome," he tweeted.

McConnell joins a growing list of Republicans who have earned the president's ire.

Last month, Trump repeatedly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, which led some to wonder if his future in the administration was in jeopardy.

Trump also accused Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, of disappointing Republicans and the country after she opposed a procedural vote to start debate on the Senate's healthcare bill last month, and said in March that members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were going to "hurt the entire Republican agenda" during the House's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.