McConnell Facing Pressure Amid Midterms
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (Getty)
By Nick Koutsobinas | Saturday, 03 September 2022 02:29 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is set to face an autumn of discontent, not a position he was expecting to be in at the start of President Joe Biden's first term. At the same time, the Senate returns to Washington next week to make a final push on legislation before the midterms.
McConnell has faced a series of complications leading up to the midterms, from Democrats, according to The New York Times, "scor[ing] a series of legislative victories" to this week sparking a public diatribe with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott of Florida.
Additionally, McConnell has felt the political ground shift beneath his feet as the rift between former President Donald Trump and him has grown.
"Why do Republicans senators," Trump wrote in a social media post last month, "allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate?" The former president also took a swipe at Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife, calling her "crazy." Chao served as transportation secretary in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2021 before she abruptly resigned after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Anti-Trump conservatives argue that McConnell put himself in an untenable position after failing to engineer a conviction for Trump after the Capitol riot that would have led to him never holding office again.
"It's like the zombie movie where he comes back to haunt and horrify you," Bill Kristol, a conservative columnist, stated. McConnell, he added, "thought he could have a good outcome legislatively and politically in 2022 without explicitly pushing back on Trump. That was the easier course. It may turn out to be a very self-defeating course for him."
On another front, McConnell last week had a nasty break with Scott.
"Unfortunately," Scott wrote, "many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates."
Additionally, McConnell has drawn criticism from within his own ranks for striking compromises with Democrats, including on the gun safety bill and a manufacturing measure. Still, the Kentucky senator has made it clear he views such deals as necessary to win the support of suburban voters in competitive regions.
"I'm not in favor of doing nothing at any point, no matter who gets elected," McConnell recently said at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Kentucky. "I've always felt that we could make bipartisan progress for the country within a 40-yard line."
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., supported McConnell, stating that he could be a "partisan warrior" when needed. "He's obviously spending a lot of time and energy to win control of the Senate," she added.
Additionally, McConnell, who has touted himself as a kind of "grim reaper" when it comes to blocking and killing legislation, has run into complications after failing to tactfully block the Inflation Reduction Act, which some on the left have hailed as a sweeping climate and health care bill.
Still, others are touting McConnell is doing all he can to help the party.
"Leader McConnell's been on airplanes and on the phone all month, and that helped make August the biggest month of the cycle so far" for donations, said Jack Pandol, spokesman for the Senate Leadership Fund.
However, as The Times wrote, McConnell and Scott's "bad blood" could hurt the party's chances of winning a majority in the Senate come the midterms.
"I'm sitting at the leadership table," Capito stated, "with both of them every Monday night; there's been tension. Obviously there are some deep-seated bad feelings, and that's very unfortunate."