Cassidy: Trump’s behavior can be a ‘distraction’

President Donald Trump’s errant, often incendiary tweets and inflammatory rhetoric, such as his 75-minute rant at a rally Tuesday night in Arizona, clearly make it more difficult for Republicans in Congress to move forward with their agenda, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said today following a speech to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club.

But Cassidy stopped short of criticizing the president, who continues to enjoy support in Cassidy’s conservative home state, and said he remains optimistic he and others in the Senate can work together to replace Obamacare, reform the nation’s business tax code and address issues with illegal immigration and infrastructure.

“Clearly he can be a distraction from what we’re trying to do,” Cassidy said. “Clearly he can be a distraction, but I put blinders on and I just focus.”

Cassidy, who pushed a compromise health care bill earlier this summer and plans to try again when Congress returns from recess, said he tries to block out the “noise” of the ever-present news cycle in the nation’s capital, and concentrate on his policy initiatives.

Though Trump is usually the source of the noise and distraction, Cassidy credited the president with being the driving force behind efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

“Right now, the president is the one driving our momentum,” he said. “It continues to be a priority for him and if we get it done, it will be because he told his administration to work with us and make it happen.”

Earlier, Cassidy told the audience of Rotarians he believes good policy trumps politics and that the policy initiative he supports with others Republicans in Congress will succeed.

But how can anything succeed, when the GOP is divided and the president picks personal battles with the Senate leadership?

“You work and if you succeed it doesn’t matter,” Cassidy said. “I view (the president’s) management style as somewhat similar to George Steinbrenner’s, who ran the New York Yankees. He used to fight with Billy Martin and he used to fight with his players, and he still won pennants. So I take it as more or less a New York style of management. It may not be the best but I still think it can work.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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