Lindsey Graham Will Back Mitch McConnell as GOP Leader, Under This One Condition

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he wouldn't back Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for another term as Republican leader unless he can work with ex-President Donald Trump.

McConnell, who turns 80 next month, told reporters on Tuesday that he would again be running for leader later this year.

However, Trump has been a vehement critic of McConnell, who blamed him for the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump also blasted McConnell as a "broken old crow" for voting for a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a proposal that let Democrats raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote.

When asked if McConnell would get his backing, Graham reiterated concerns he had expressed last month for there to be no strained ties between the GOP leader and Trump, who is expected to play a key role in the 2022 midterms and beyond.

"If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with President Donald Trump," he told Fox News.

Graham said: "I like Senator McConnell" and praised his work with Trump on tax cuts and getting "a bunch of judges including three...Supreme Court justices on the bench."

"I'm not going to vote for anybody that can't have a working relationship with President Trump," he said, because the GOP needs to work as "a team...to show the difference between us and liberal Democrats," as well as "prosecute the case for Trump policies."

"I'm not going to vote for anybody for leader of the Senate as a Republican unless they can prove to me that they can advocate an American first agenda and have a working relationship with President Trump, because if you can't do that, you will fail."

Graham told anchor Sean Hannity that Trump was "the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan" and said that if the former president decides to run again in 2024, "I think he'll get re-elected."

McConnell was Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021, and minority leader from 2007 to 2015 and 2021 to the present.

No one within the GOP appears to be looking to succeed McConnell, who was elected to a seventh Senate term in 2020 by a 20-point margin over Democrat Amy McGrath and doesn't need to face re-election until 2026.

"As long as he is in the Senate, he's going to want to be the leader, in the minority or the majority," Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said, according to The Hill. "In terms of his wrestling match with President Trump, that's an issue that I guess will sort itself out over time."

Newsweek has contacted McConnell's office for comment.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell
Senator Lindsey Graham (left) in a split picture with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The South Carolina lawmaker told Fox News he would only back McConnell as GOP leader if he could work with former President Donald Trump. Getty