Politics

Elaine Chao: ‘I Stand By My Man. Both of Them.’

Transportation secretary stays neutral in boss-husband feud

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao gives her “man” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a kiss after he introduced her during her confirmation hearing in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao weighed in Tuesday on President Donald Trump’s feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell using unexpected choice words:

“I stand by my man. Both of them,” she said.

The comment came shortly after a press conference at Trump Tower in New York to announce an executive order designed to speed up the permitting process for infrastructure projects, according to a White House press pool report.

Chao is married to McConnell and a member of Trump’s cabinet. While not surprising that she would express support for both men — who have exchanged jabs in recent weeks — the words she chose to defend them were.

Her husband ignited the feud with Trump when he told guests at a Rotary Club event in Kentucky last week that the president “had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

The majority leader said he found the narrative that Republicans haven’t done anything “extremely irritating” and that Trump’s lack of political experience led him to believe key agenda items like repeal of the 2010 health care law could be completed quickly.

After conservatives like Sean Hannity jumped on McConnell’s comments, Trump weighed in via Twitter. 

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” the president tweeted Wednesday.

Trump continued to pile on the criticism as reporters grilled him about McConnell last week. 

“We should have had health care approved,” Trump said during a pool spray Friday evening. “He should have know that he had a couple of votes that turned on him and that should have been very easy to handle, whether it’s through the fact that can take away a committee chairmanship or do whatever you have to do. But what, in my opinion, last week is unacceptable. … I was not impressed.”

The president even signaled that he could eventually call on McConnell to step down if he fails to get other GOP legislative priorities through the Senate. 

“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 that done, then you should ask me that question,” Trump said when pool reporters asked Thursday whether McConnell should remain majority leader.

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