Mitch McConnell, Safe Until 2026, Jumps Into GOP Battles

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken charged stances in regard to Republican infighting of late after securing another term in the chamber and staving off any challenge to his seat for the next few years.

McConnell defeated Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in December, with his seat in the upper chamber not up for a vote again until 2026.

"Now that he has won reelection, McConnell is likely viewing this as his last term in the Senate. He wants to cement the party in his preferred vision and also fix his legacy in history," Dr. David Andersen, assistant professor in U.S. politics at Durham University, told Newsweek.

Having largely aligned with former President Donald Trump throughout his tenure, McConnell broke from him in December when he became one of the first major Republican figureheads to acknowledge Joe Biden's victory—rejecting Trump's persistent stance that he had been somehow robbed in the election. This sparked a backlash from Trump and his allies.

Since Trump's impeachment, he has also been cagey about his stance—leaving open the prospect of voting to convict when pressed on the matter.

"He was never a strong supporter of Trump but was happy to use Trump to accomplish his own goals," Andersen added.

However, McConnell did cast a vote suggesting the trial was unconstitutional. This vote chimed with most other Republican senators, indicating Trump's conviction is unlikely.

While potentially irking Trump's allies with his impeachment stance, McConnell has also more directly weighed in on particular arguments involving them.

Most recently, McConnell has been drawn into the furor surrounding Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)—who has faced calls to resign and a Democratic push to have her removed from committee positions.

McConnell spoke of "loony lies and conspiracy theories" being a "cancer for the Republican Party."

"Somebody who's suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality," he said, in comments first reported by The Hill.

"This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party."

Greene in turn responded to McConnell in a combative style, highlighting the type of split in the party at present.

"The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully," Greene said in a tweet. "This is why we are losing our country."

While tacitly opposing Greene, McConnell has also engaged in Republican infighting to defend Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

Cheney has faced calls to quit her position as House GOP conference chair, having voted to impeach Trump earlier this year.

Trump allies such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have pushed for her to go, while there has also been the suggestion of her facing a primary challenge next year following her impeachment stance.

McConnell, however, has branded Cheney an "important leader" in the GOP.

"Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them. She is an important leader in our party and in our nation," he said in a statement to CNN. "I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation."

His comments again put him at odds in a growing Trump Republican versus traditional Republican divide in the GOP.

"The current division in the party is between conventional Republicans (i.e. 'those with policy goals') and populists who have less clear aims but want to dismantle and discredit the system," Andersen added.

"McConnell doesn't want to dismantle the system, he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest in history at using the system to accomplish his goals. As long as he can attack the populists without damaging his ability to accomplish his current goals, I think he will continue to do so."

Newsweek has contacted McConnell's office for comment on his recent stances and motivations for them.

mitch mcconnell at us capitol
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes his way to the subway as he heads to a Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on February 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C. He has taken a range of charged stances since winning re-election. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images