This week, McConnell has many private chats with his members, but leaves the public arguments to Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) And Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Even so, as the Senate majority leader, he will oversee much of his conference and reject Trump’s false claims that his election was stolen.
“He lets everyone come to their own conclusion here. That’s very much his style of leadership on issues like this, not much to say. I think he hopes we don’t have too many people to vote for it,” said a Republican senator, who had joined McConnell: “Trying to convince people now would not produce great results if only you could give them time to think about it.”
Republicans also said if McConnell became the face of opposition to the election results challenge on Jan. 6, it could backfire and deter Trump’s Georgia supporters from voting on Jan. 5.
Several GOP Senators who joined the campaign to challenge the election results said they had not spoken to McConnell about the matter, including freshman Senator Tommy Tuberville from Alabama and Senator Steve Daines from Montana. Minutes after the swearing in, new Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming declined to discuss the GOP leaders’ response to her position: “A happy day for us. It was wonderful. “
“The leader’s priority is always to keep the majority. And I respect that, ”Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan) said when asked if McConnell made a mistake in speaking out against the effort. “Some of the greatest Super Bowl champions had a day of division.”
McConnell has quarreled with Hawley in the past after the Missouri Senator appointed one of Trump’s law enforcement officers. He also suppressed Hawley’s attempts with Democrats last week to approve the US $ 2,000 bill passed by the House, arguing that the proposal was “socialism for rich people.”
Aside from McConnell asking Hawley to explain his plan on a conference call last week that Hawley did not attend, there was little direct friction between the two of them in the election. Even then, McConnell merely asked Hawley to explain his plan and, according to one person on the call, did not challenge him.
Last month, McConnell warned his caucus that contesting the election results would force a “terrible vote” for members as it could be viewed as a referendum on Trump. Republicans face a tough Senate map in 2022, and Wednesday’s vote could be especially awkward for senators running for re-election.
Trump is already encouraging a primary challenge against John Thune, the Senate majority whip, after the South Dakota Republican predicted the vote would sink like a “shot dog”. But on Monday, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, backed the certification of the election results, a signal that Republicans on the front lines will be comfortable recognizing Biden won in the next election cycle.
Even so, the president has not completely hidden his frustration with McConnell in recognizing Biden’s victory. Trump recently sent a slide to GOP lawmakers recognizing McConnell’s victory over Democrat Amy McGrath. He later tweeted that he “saved at least 8 Republican senators, including Mitch, from losing in the last rigged election (for president).”
“I don’t think he’s enjoying it,” said a second Republican senator of McConnell’s role as leader of a split party. “He just has to make sure that this doesn’t split us all into different factions.”