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'This fall is not going to be pretty for Republicans,' ex-RNC chairman Michael Steele says

  • "The tension is already there on some big-ticket items ... the Senate is of one mind, the House is of another and the White House is on a completely different page," Michael Steele tells CNBC.
  • He says an added problem is Steve Bannon, who recently departed the Trump White House.
  • Bannon is now planning to use his role at Breitbart to "go after" those who have compromised the president's agenda, Steele says.

Time is running out for the Trump administration to enact its agenda, and disagreements on key issues between the White House, the Senate and the House will make things even harder, former Republican leader Michael Steele told CNBC on Monday.

"The tension is already there on some big-ticket items like tax reform and health care that the Senate is of one mind, the House is of another and the White House is on a completely different page," the former chairman of the Republican National Committee said on "Squawk Box."

He said the debt ceiling represents the strains between the executive and legislative branches.

There are Republicans who came into Congress promising that they would not vote for any increase in the federal debt limit, Steele said. "But the president has already made it very clear he wants a clean vote, he wants a clean debt-spending bill increase on the table."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the government will hit its debt limit in mid-October and will need to raise its borrowing limit or risk defaulting on its debt obligations.

Steele said now is the time to pass things that are important to the administration like tax reform partly because of next year's elections. He said more pressing issues like the debt ceiling are likely to make tax reform difficult.

He said an added problem for congressional Republicans is former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who departed the Trump White House on Friday and is planning to use his role at Breitbart News to "go after" those who have compromised the president's agenda.

"This fall is not going to be pretty for Republicans," he said.

While the White House has endured a number of high-profile departures in recent weeks, Steele said he would "have a very hard time" going into an administration that has not been clear on issues of race.

"I want the president to be successful, but the president has to show me that something that is very basic and fundamental to the core of who we are as Americans, that he stands with that," he said.

Speaking later on the show, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said it's up to each individual to decide whether to serve in the administration that might be at odds with their personal values.

"At some point they have to make that existential decision," Democrat Jackson said. He was commenting on Steven Mnunchin's response to a letter written by his Yale colleagues urging him to resign. Mnunchin responded that he believed it is important to keep the president surrounded by "talented men and women."

When asked about his past support for Trump in the '90s, Jackson was blunt: "He changed."

"He left what we thought to be a rather progressive, inclusive position to one that's very divisive, very ugly and very limited."