House Speaker Paul Ryan defended GOP Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain Wednesday, following President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the lawmakers at his Tuesday rally in Phoenix.
While the president didn’t name the congressmen directly during his address, he blasted McCain for opting not to vote in favor of the motion to proceed on the Senate Republicans’ Obamacare “skinny repeal,” and alleged that Flake is weak on border security.
Ryan said Trump’s decision to go after the Republican senators is likely due to the effectiveness of the strategy during the course of the campaign, adding he believes it’s important they take strides to attempt to unify the party if they want to accomplish their legislative goals.
“I think the president feels that’s a strategy that works for him,” he said during a press conference in Hillsboro, Ore. “I would just say that I think it’s important that we all stay unified as Republicans to complete our agenda.”
The Wisconsin Republican noted he doesn’t agree with Flake and McCain on all issues, but has overall had a positive experience working with his colleagues in the upper chamber.
“Those two gentlemen are people I respect, know, like and are friends with,” he said. “We disagree on certain issues — I can think of a couple with those gentlemen. But nevertheless, we have a very good working relationship.”
Trump has long had a rocky relationship with both McCain and Flake, with the senators frequently coming out against the president’s fiery rhetoric and approach to governing.
Flake’s campaign pushed back against Trump’s accusations following his speech Tuesday, arguing that the senator has voted in favor of legislation to increase the number of border patrol agents and build at least 700 miles of the wall along the southern border.
The president recently applauded Dr. Kelli Ward’s decision to challenge Flake for his seat in the 2018 primary election.
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