Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that his focus was on “stopping” President Biden’s administration, citing the unity in his caucus.
“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell said during a press conference in Kentucky when asked if he was concerned that Republicans who acknowledged Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 election could face political liabilities.
“One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration,” McConnell continued. “What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from [moderate Maine Sen.] Susan Collins to [conservative Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.”
McConnell’s comments come as his party continues to reckon with the legacy of former President Donald Trump, who handily lost the November election to Biden but has continued to baselessly insist that he won.
Trump remains wildly popular with Republican voters and is considered a leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. At the same time, Trump is a divisive figure who continues to alienate broad swaths of the electorate, including many traditionally right-leaning voters.
The question of how to handle Trump looms over GOP leaders like McConnell, who are struggling to find a way to keep the voters Trump attracted to the party while winning back those he drove away. In the meantime, House and Senate Republicans have stayed largely united in opposing Biden’s agenda despite their internal disagreements over Trump.
McConnell’s counterparts in the House are currently coordinating an effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who has emerged in recent months as the party’s foremost Trump critic in elected office, from her leadership role in the GOP conference. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and has continued criticizing his meritless claims that the election was “rigged” against him.
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” Rep. Cheney tweeted Monday.
On Wednesday, Trump endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to replace Cheney in the House GOP leadership, calling Cheney a “warmongering fool.”
And earlier on Wednesday, Trump criticized McConnell in a statement, calling the senator “gutless and clueless” for not fighting “to expose” corruption tied to the 2020 election that does not exist. McConnell voted in the Senate trial to acquit Trump for his role in the storming of the Capitol, although he has also denounced Trump’s attempts to try to undo the election.
A new CNN poll found that 70 percent of Republicans believe that Biden did not receive enough votes to legitimately win the November election. GOP-controlled state legislatures have used Republicans’ widespread belief that the election was fraudulent to justify “voter integrity” laws in states like Georgia that will make it harder for some to vote.
McConnell’s comments about stopping the Biden administration come as some members of his caucus say the White House is not making enough of an effort to reach out to Republicans and build bipartisan support for major legislative endeavors, including a new infrastructure proposal. The Biden administration, meanwhile, argues that it has been acting in a bipartisan fashion because polls indicate widespread support for its agenda.
No GOP members of the House or Senate voted for March’s American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief bill that had 70 percent support in multiple polls at the time of its passage, with McConnell saying it was “a wildly out-of-proportion response to where the country is at the moment.” Biden met with a group of GOP senators on Feb. 1 at the White House, but their counterproposal, which was a third the size of the ARP, never gained traction.
Republicans have mounted stiff resistance to Biden’s infrastructure plan despite a Yahoo News/YouGov poll last month finding that a majority of Americans favored every provision in it.
The comments from McConnell echo a statement he made to the National Journal in 2010 when he said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
In response to McConnell’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the administration is “100 percent” focused on “delivering relief to the American people and getting the pandemic under control and putting people back to work.”
“We welcome support, engagement and work with the Republicans on that,” Psaki continued.
Psaki also noted that Biden has invited Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to the White House next week to discuss her counterproposal for an infrastructure package. Capito has said her “sweet spot” for an infrastructure spending bill would come in at around $600 billion to $800 billion, or less than half of the $2 trillion Biden is looking to spend.
When asked how she came to that number, Capito replied, “It’s just a ballpark figure. It doesn’t — it may not even be that much. I don’t know. I just kind of threw that out as a talking point.”
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