Senator Mitch McConnell was handily reelected in November and has confirmed his legacy as the architect of a recast judiciary that saw 230 new Conservative federal judges and three Supreme Court justices join in just four years. He also just lost his job as a majority leader and witnessed one of the darkest hours for our nation, and certainly the darkest hour for the GOP, in his life. But for a 78-year-old man approaching four decades in Congress and perhaps his final term in office, the hardest and most challenging days and weeks of his career lie ahead.
All eyes are on McConnell, from corporate titans to voters on Main Street, as they wait to see if he will work across the aisle on critical issues like pandemic emergency relief or thwart President Biden's agenda. But what McConnell will do within his own party will determine not only his place in history, but the future of the GOP and the integrity and independence of Congress.
CNN reported Friday that "dozens of influential Republicans, including some former Trump administration officials" are lobbying McConnell to support impeachment condemnation of the former president and vote to ban him from future office as the best and only way. for the party. continue. A vote from McConnell to condemn Trump would likely provide the necessary cover for other like-minded Republican senators to do the same.
McConnell & # 39; s split from Trump came on January 6. Hours after the Republicans lost the Senate – when Trump made the second races for the incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue condemned, but before storming the Capitol – McConnell finally spoke out against the president's election big lie and the complicity of his colleagues in it. “If this election were to be quashed by mere accusations from the losing party, our democracy would go into a death spiral,” he said on the Senate floor that morning.
Immediately after the attack on the Capitol, McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, resigned as transport secretary. And McConnell World, the most loyal teams that never leak, then orchestrated a leak blessed from above to let the media know that leader Trump "hates" would never speak to him again, was glad House Democrats they were impeaching him, and could possibly vote to convict in a senate process.
McConnell, and the Republicans urging him to distance Trump's party, know that the former president cost the party its Senate majority by squeezing votes in Georgia's run-offs, and that his incitement to sedition is Willingness to jeopardize Vice President Pence, the refusal to stop the riots while they were going on, the rioters' praise amounted to a dangerous blot on the country by a leader who betrayed the constitution.
By trying to move away from Trump, McConnell does not appear to be hoping to return the party to its former principles – free market capitalism, free trade, the rule of law, limited government, debt reduction – all of which were thrown out or destroyed by Trump. This idea is a lost cause, and no GOP leader even mentioned federalism or the sovereignty of states in the wake of a violent mob trying to steal an election and overthrow the government. McConnell and others in line with him only hope to distance the party from the illiberalism of Trumpism in the hope of winning back some of the voters who lost Republicans in the Trump years. To earn credibility with those voters, they have to reject what Trump did.
At Fox News, Sean Hannity tells his audience that Republicans need a new leader in the Senate because McConnell is "the king of the established Republicans." Indeed he is. And the establishment is interested in moving away from lies about brainwashing, the foremost among them Trump's claim of electoral fraud. Instead, they want to be a party that can collect the corporate dollars that are now being banned and denied.
Republicans like McConnell are right, but they live in a lonely minority. Trump is working, literally, to break the party by threatening to start a new MAGA or "Patriot" party – a gift to the Democrats. The GOP has been splintered since the deadly uprising. General rejection of violence has gone as far as the Republicans as a group have gone, and there are still only five or six in each room telling voters they have been lied to.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who said he was done with Trump on the night of January 6, ran back to his spot as a top Trump advisor within days. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump had some responsibility for the deadly attack on Congress, is now backing down his statements, saying Trump did not incite violence and that everyone in the country is responsible for what happened.
A lawsuit against impeachment will begin in the Senate in two weeks. Now that he is out of office, Trump would not be removed by conviction, but could be banned from office with an accompanying vote. Conviction, requiring 67 votes – 17 Republicans joining Democrats – is next to impossible. Republicans from critical areas of the conference have made that clear. It's not just those seeking a candidate for president in 2024, or ardent Trumpkins like Senator Ron Johnson, trying to fend off a Trump-powered primary challenge in 2022. Senator John Cornyn, a close leading ally of McConnell who had just been re-elected, is the kind of Republican hoping to get away from Trump and who would be needed for conviction. He says a trial is "vengeful." Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the leadership, said a lawsuit is "stupid." Graham was the most blunt, saying on Fox News last week that anyone who wants to erase Trump "will be erased."
In a statement released to the press on Sunday, Trump assistant Jason Miller made clear the threat to members of the House who voted to impeach and to Senate Republicans who are considering voting to convict. "The president has made it clear that his goal is to reclaim the House and Senate from Republicans by 2022," Miller said. "Nothing is actively planned in regards to an effort out there, but it's entirely up to Republican senators whether this is anything. That gets more serious."
GOP House members and their leaders – with the exception of Rep. Liz Cheney – absorbed the threat. Cheney and the other nine Republicans who voted for impeachment await primary challenges, and Cheney also faces disapproval at home and a relocation by over 115 of her colleagues to fire her as chair of the House GOP Conference. . Vocal Trumpkins like Rep. Matt Gaetz denounces Cheney as a threat to the party, insisting that "President Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party and the America First movement." Freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced QAnon's conspiracy theories, has warned that the only organizing principle for Republicans is Trump. “The vast majority of Republican voters, volunteers and donors are no longer loyal to the GOP, the Republican Party and candidates just because they have an R to their name. Their allegiance now lies with Donald J. Trump. "
McConnell is an institutionalist who dislikes government closures or threats to breach the debt ceiling. He repeatedly resisted pressure from Trump to eliminate the filibuster, which at the time was protecting the rights of the Democratic minority in the Senate. He strongly defended democracy in his January 6 speech. Last week, he graciously congratulated Senator Chuck Schumer as the new majority leader of the chamber.
He is also a fierce partisan. Despite all of McConnell's candor since the morning of January 6, he remains complicit in his silence until that deadly day. He never spoke out because he wanted to keep the seats in Georgia, and he wanted to remain the majority leader. McConnell famously blocked Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination for 237 days, claiming that the Senate could not uphold justice in the same year as an election, but confirmed Amy Coney Barrett eight days before a Supreme Court election – in both cases because he did that helped his party. Right now, what McConnell thinks is best for the party isn't what grassroots voters think is best.
For McConnell, conviction should be easy. He swore an oath to defend the Constitution – not a corrupt and dangerous president – against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The consent that would acquit future demagogues and authoritarians is an invitation to future sedition and insurrection. An acquittal not only makes Trump more powerful, it is likely the end of impeachment as a constitutional instrument, threatening Congress's control over the executive. Will McConnell try to convince others to follow him?
The easy choice, of course, is consent – he can just fall back. But that will likely doom the GOP to long-term minority status as millions of Trump voters stop voting without their idol on the ticket and other voters write off the party for good. A partisan acquittal would also continue to erode separation of powers and constitutional order.
McConnell must soon choose a path and walk it. He knows he cannot go both ways.
. (tagsToTranslate) Donald Trump (t) impeachment (t) Mitch McConnell