McConnell says he has votes to serve as majority leader, despite Trump attacks
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) says he has the votes to serve as majority leader if Republicans capture control of the Senate, despite weathering nearly two years of personal attacks from former President Trump.
Trump has repeatedly called on Senate Republicans to replace McConnell as leader, but he hasn’t gotten any traction in the Senate GOP conference.
“I have the votes,” McConnell told CNN in an interview, slamming the door on any speculation that an influx of Trump-aligned freshman senators could shake up the Senate GOP leadership structure.
Republican senators say that no one in their conference has made a move to explore support for a possible challenge to McConnell.
The top members of McConnell’s leadership team — Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), GOP Conference Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) — have stayed unswervingly loyal to McConnell, knowing that he retains a firm grip on power.
McConnell has augmented his influence both among Senate GOP colleagues and candidates running in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Colorado through tens of millions of dollars in spending by an affiliated super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund.
The Senate Leadership Fund has spent $52 million on television ads in the past two weeks, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm.
Trump’s PAC, Save America, has contributed only about $8.4 million to Republican candidates and committees, according to The Washington Post. A huge chunk of its budget has been consumed by legal fees.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Trump from criticizing McConnell on Monday for not steering more money into the Arizona Senate race, where Trump-allied candidate Blake Masters trails incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) in the polls.
Trump specifically criticized the Senate Leadership Fund for supporting moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in Alaska over Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka, who is waging a challenge from the right.
Trump most recently called for McConnell to be ousted from his job in August.
“Mitch McConnell is not an Opposition Leader, he is a pawn for the Democrats to get whatever they want,” Trump said in a statement. “He is afraid of them, and will not do what has to be done. A new Republican Leader in the Senate should be picked immediately!”
McConnell has not spoken to Trump since mid-December 2020 and denounced him on the Senate floor in February of last year for instigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.