Trump talks to members of Congress on policy agenda during recess

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan answers questions during his weekly press conference at the US Capitol on June 29 in Washington.

Story highlights

  • President Donald Trump has had a fraught relationship with Congress
  • The President has an ambitious agenda related to tax reform this fall
  • Trump spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan and two senators

(CNN)President Donald Trump worked the phones Monday with congressional leaders during his stay at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, talking about health care and tax reform.

He also spoke to one of the senators, Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who introduced a bill that could potentially protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the President, though it was not known whether the bill was addressed during the conversation.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the President spoke the previous day with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, in addition to Tillis.
    ".@POTUS had productive conversations with @SpeakerRyan and other members yesterday on tax reform and healthcare for hard-working Americans," she also tweeted.
    Representatives for Ryan and the two senators declined to share any details about the conversations.
    Tillis teamed up with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons to introduce a measure Thursday that would make it more difficult for a president to fire any special counsel -- retroactive to Mueller's appointment in May. The president could still maintain the power to remove a special counsel, but the firing would undergo judicial review and would have to be deemed warranted.
    It was one example of the tense relationship the President has had with Congress in recent weeks. While he still signed it, he was critical of a bill that passed with wide bipartisan support that would make it more difficult for the President to ease sanctions against Russia, calling the bill "seriously flawed" and saying "it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate."
    He also tweeted that Congress was to blame for the "all-time & very dangerous low" relationship between Russia and the United States.
    After the Senate failed to pass legislation on health care late last month, Trump took to Twitter to pressure senators to keep pushing for a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act -- despite congressional leaders already signaling that they were ready to move on to tax reform.
    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been relatively measured in his previous critiques of the White House, argued Monday at a speech in Kentucky that the President's approach to the legislative process is leading to an inaccurate impression of how Congress works.
    "Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before," said McConnell according to CNN affiliate WCPO, which covered the event. "I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process."
    McConnell made the case that the Congress is working as it should and that voters should allow the process to play itself out before passing judgment.
    "Part of the reason I think people think we're under-performing is because of too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality of the legislature which may have not been understood."
    There have been signs, however, that Trump has been seeking to change his approach with lawmakers. Before Congress broke for the August recess and before the President left for Bedminster last week, Trump held a few one-on-one meetings with Republican senators at the White House who were heavily involved in health care.
    While some health care work will resume after Congress returns in September, congressional leaders are already repositioning toward working on a number of fiscal issues, including raising the debt ceiling and passing a budget, not to mention tax reform, after they get back.