WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell held up a challenge to his leadership on Wednesday as some of Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress lashed out at top Republicans and their party a smaller-than-expected majority in the House in the midterm elections.
McConnell fended off the first challenge in his nearly 16-year reign as party chief after Senator Rick Scott tried to oust him as minority leader, claiming the “DC swamp” was to blame for the party’s inability to win a Senate majority. to win.
That bid failed even after Trump repeatedly called for McConnell’s impeachment and promoted Scott as a replacement. McConnell angered Trump by recognizing Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Trump, who launched his own 2024 White House candidacy on Tuesday, falsely claims he lost to fraud.
“I am in no way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes against,” a delighted-looking McConnell told reporters at a press conference after the vote.
Despite Republican hopes for a “red wave” of support in the November 8 election, they failed to reverse the Democrats’ razor-thin Senate majority. They won a narrow majority in the House, having won the 218 seats needed, eight of which had not yet been elected. Edison Research estimates that the Democrats have won 209.
Thirty-seven Republicans voted for McConnell, who is now positioned to become the longest-serving party leader in Senate history next year, while ten supported Scott and one voted “present,” senators said.
“While the results of today’s election were not what we hoped for, this is far from the end of our fight to make Washington work,” Scott said in a statement.
Republican Senator Mike Braun, who endorsed Scott, told reporters the failed challenge registered the concerns of conservatives who want more say in decision-making and said the contest could benefit McConnell as leader.
“He won with authority,” Braun said. “If he embraces what some members of the caucus want to give a little resonance to, he’s stronger.”
McConnell and Scott both addressed the rally, which included newly elected Trump-backed Senate Republicans, including JD Vance and Ted Budd.
Scott and his supporters have criticized McConnell for failing to advance a party agenda during the midterm campaign.
NO RULE CHANGES IN SENATE
McConnell showed no signs of changing the way the conference conducts business to accommodate conservatives who want more input into decisions.
But other Republicans have said it’s time for the party to move on from Trump after many of his endorsed candidates for the House and Senate lost their races.
“President Trump has lost three (elections) in a row. And if we want to start winning, we need a new leader,” Senator Mitt Romney told reporters.
In the House, conservative Republicans continued to bash party leader Kevin McCarthy, a day after he defeated a challenger for the top House Speaker position.
“Minority Leader McCarthy still lacks the votes to become the next speaker of the House. Yesterday’s vote shows growing frustration with the status quo,” wrote Rep. Andy Biggs, who challenged the California Republican but lost by 188 -31 votes. Wednesday on Twitter.
“The American people want us to turn a page,” Biggs said.
While Senate Republicans met in the morning to vote for party leaders, House Republicans met later in the day to discuss chamber rules for the next Congress. It may take weeks for the party’s set of rules to be finalized.
The hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which Biggs is also a member, is pushing for rule changes that would make it easier for members to oust a speaker, among other things.
McConnell gave his own take on the party’s weak interim performance.
“Here’s the problem,” he said. “We underperformed among voters who didn’t like President Biden’s performance, among independents, and among moderate Republicans who looked at us and concluded: too much chaos, too much negativity. And we eliminated many of these centrist voters.”
Reporting by David Morgan and Gram Slattery, written by David Morgan; Edited by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien
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