McConnell Says 'Marching Orders' From Americans Are Clear—Work Together in Congress

In his final day in the majority, U.S. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said the November elections signal that Americans want Republicans and Democrats to work together in Congress.

"Certainly November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change," McConnell said from the Senate floor on Tuesday. "Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone."

The U.S. Senate, which has been under Republican control since 2016, will flip to Democratic control when two new Georgia senators are sworn in Wednesday after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. With Democrats (with their independent allies) and Republicans split 50-50, Harris has the tie-breaking vote.

Republicans and Democrats have been in negotiations about committee assignments and chairmanships in the lead-up to the shift in control.

"Our marching orders from the American people are clear—we're to have a robust discussion and seek common ground," McConnell said Tuesday. "We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can and check and balance one another respectfully where we must."

But lawmakers have a potentially divisive task ahead. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber will prioritize an impeachment trial for outgoing President Donald Trump and vote on whether Trump should be barred from seeking public office in the future, after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in opposition to the election outcome. Trump spent weeks falsely claiming that the election had been stolen from him and urging his supporters to challenge the outcome.

The Democrat-controlled House, with support from 10 Republicans, voted to impeach Trump for a second time after the January 6 Capitol siege that left five people dead.

"President Trump is a threat to our constitutional order," Schumer said. "President Trump invented the lie that motivated these criminals, and he exhorted them to come to Washington. He then directed them at the U.S. Capitol, and his demagoguery whipped them into a frenzy."

Other priorities as Democrats take control of the Senate will include voting on Biden's cabinet officials and approving another COVID-19 relief package, Schumer said.

It was the Senate's first return to the chamber after certifying Biden's election following the violent riot that temporarily disrupted the process.

"The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty," McConnell said, before ultimately blaming Trump and his allies.

"The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."

McConnell, who had been a staunch ally of Trump, first acknowledged Biden's win on December 15. Before the riot, he had called for the results to be certified and had attempted to prevent members of his caucus from challenging the certification.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who was among lawmakers who challenged the election outcome at Trump's urging, was presiding over the chamber at the time of McConnell's remarks.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) looks on with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the House Chamber during a reconvening of a joint session of Congress on January 6 in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress returned to the House Chamber after being evacuated when protesters stormed the Capitol and disrupted a joint session to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Drew Angerer/Getty