McConnell defends Corker amid Trump feud
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE (R-Ky.) is offering support to Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.) amid a war of words between the latter and President Trump.

"Sen. Corker is a valuable member of the Senate Republican caucus and he’s also on the Budget committee and a particularly important player as we move to the floor on the budget next week and he’s an important part of our team,” McConnell said Monday in Kentucky, according to the Associated Press.

Asked about whether he agreed with Corker's criticism of Trump, McConnell sidestepped, adding: "[Corker is] an important part of our team and he's a particularly important part of the budget debate which will be on the floor next week."

Corker and Trump traded rhetorical fire on Sunday after the president lashed out at the Tennessee senator during an early morning tweetstorm.

But Corker's staff pushed back on the president's tweet, saying Trump asked Corker to reconsider his decision to retire after 2018 and offered his endorsement if he ran for reelection.

Corker also fired back publicly at Trump, comparing the White House to an "adult day care center."

Corker stepped up his criticism later on Sunday, telling The New York Times that Trump's threats to other countries put the U.S. "on the path to World War III.”

“He concerns me,” Corker said during the interview. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Corker also told the Times that he didn't get pushback for his "day care" comments when he talked to McConnell on Sunday.

Corker — once considered as a potential vice president or secretary of State under Trump — says he talks with the president frequently, but his increasingly sharp criticism appears to have rankled the president and his allies. 

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McConnell's comments on Monday come as Senate GOP leadership will try to pass its fiscal 2018 budget next week. The bill includes instructions that will allow Republicans to pass tax reform by a simple majority, avoiding a Democratic filibuster.

But Republicans have a narrow path for passing either the budget or, ultimately, tax reform. With a 52-seat majority they need the support of at least 50 senators, which would allow Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSome WH aides anxious over Russia probe despite reassurances from Trump lawyer: report Paul Krugman unwittingly fulfills fiscal fantasies for Republicans Ex-Pence aide on Rosie: She promised to leave US if Trump won and she's still here MORE to break a tie.

Corker has emerged as one of the loudest Republican critics in the Senate of leadership's tax blueprint, saying he won't support even a "penny's worth of deficits."

“I want tax reform to reduce the deficit,” he said last week. “I want it to be pro-growth, and I want it to be permanent.”

But he added that his skepticism about the current tax framework wouldn't impact his support for the budget.