WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell’s talks with Democrats to secure more aid to Ukraine have drawn increasing attacks from hard-liners within his party and some lawmakers say it is a threat to Donald Trump’s growing influence. is a direct result of.
The 81-year-old Kentucky Republican, the chamber’s longest-serving party leader, has faced more heat from hard-liners since Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, torpedoed a bipartisan deal backed by McConnell aimed at U.S. -To stop the flow of migrants at the Mexico border and provide aid to Ukraine and Israel.
After party hardliners rejected that deal – which some sought as a trade-off for Ukraine aid – McConnell worked with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pursue a standalone $95 billion security bill. Has continued to work for.
His willingness to work across the board — a practical necessity given a narrow Democratic majority — has become a liability among some of his Trump-aligned colleagues.
“Who has more influence? Probably Trump,” Senator Josh Hawley told reporters. “I mean, he’s the future. He’s going to be the party’s nominee. He may win in November. Senator McConnell is probably not the future.”
McConnell’s office declined to comment for this story. But he told US media outlets last week that he has faced tough political times before and survived. On Friday, he said on the Senate floor that it is important to provide US aid to Ukraine as it fights Russian aggression.
“This is about rebuilding the arsenal of democracy and demonstrating to our allies and adversaries alike that we are serious about exercising American power,” McConnell said. “American aid in these efforts is not charity. It is an investment in cold, hard American interests.”
Conservative Senator Mike Braun of Indiana linked the level of opposition to McConnell to the growing number of 49 Republicans in the Senate who have supported Trump. Till now at least 31 people have supported him.
“More people are coming to see that the old thinking isn’t working,” Braun said.
Radical Republicans have long been a major force in the House of Representatives, repeatedly flirting with government shutdowns and near-defaults.
Just last week, Speaker Mike Johnson suffered another humiliating defeat due to the dissent of the 219-212 House Republican majority, as the chamber failed to pass a resolution to impeach US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and a standalone Israel aid bill. Stayed.
But lawmakers say activism among Senate Trump supporters, what members describe as “high-decibel” exchanges in closed-door meetings, has reached unprecedented levels.
McConnell and Trump have had a stormy relationship since the Senate leader recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, despite Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud. McConnell later accused Trump of inciting the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, after the Senate acquitted Trump of impeachment charges.
‘Blood in the water’
A small number of Republican hard-liners have talked openly about replacing McConnell, months after their House counterparts ousted Johnson’s predecessor Kevin McCarthy after he used a bipartisan bill to keep the government funded.
Senator Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, said at a press conference this week that it was time for McConnell to go. Another hard-line senator, Mike Lee, has also called for a change of leadership.
“You can only score so many points for the other team before you lose your status as team captain,” Lee said in response to a post by X CEO Elon Musk on the social platform X. Which said: “It’s time for Mitch to go.”
But according to many Republicans, McConnell, who was overwhelmingly re-elected leader in 2022 by a 37-10 vote over Trump’s favorite Senator Rick Scott, still has the support of his conference’s supermajority.
Senator Kevin Cramer said, “Some people feel like maybe there’s some blood in the water and they’ll try to pounce on him.”
He added: “If anything, it’s just going to harden the people who support Mitch.”
In recent weeks, the growing popularity of Trump’s boxing and populist style was clearly on display in the Senate, which is traditionally known for more order and civility than the House.
Trump, who derisively calls McConnell an “old crow”, has repeatedly called for his ouster. McConnell has responded that Old Crow is his favorite brand of bourbon.
It’s a profound change given the role McConnell played during his administration by helping Trump appoint three Supreme Court justices, who solidified a 6-3 conservative majority.
But Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who often takes hardline stances, said McConnell would probably remain leader after this year’s November election if he has to, even if Trump returns to the White House.
“They probably won’t eat dinner or gossip much,” Rubio told reporters.
“But on most issues they’ll find a lot in common. I mean, they’ll probably agree on 90% of the things, even if they’re not necessarily friendly.”