- Former President Trump has spoken with GOP senators about ousting McConnell as leader, per the WSJ.
- According to the report, there appears to be little appetite for such a drastic move.
- McConnell enjoys the strong support of GOP caucus members, even with Trump’s entreaties.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Former President Donald Trump has spoken recently with Republican senators and political allies about ousting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from leadership and is gauging whether there is any interest among lawmakers for a possible challenge, according to The Wall Street Journal.
There appears to be little support for such a drastic move, according to the report, but the Trump’s actions could potentially morph into a larger issue for the party, especially as the Kentucky Republican hopes to regain the Senate majority in the 2022 midterm elections and the former president continues to float a potential 2024 bid.
While Trump and McConnell worked together to fill scores of federal court vacancies with conservative jurists, along with passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and other GOP priorities, Trump’s intransigence in accepting his election loss to now-President Joe Biden and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot deeply strained the relationship between the two men.
After Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot, McConnell declined to find the president guilty, but sharply rebuked him on the Senate floor. Later, McConnell said he would support Trump in 2024 if he were the GOP nominee, but Trump has not forgiven the minority leader for his speech.
Trump has continued to needle McConnell in the press – he recently took the minority leader to task for backing the $US1.2 ($AU2) trillion bipartisan infrastructure passage that passed in the Senate last month, calling the legislation “a disgrace.”
“If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package,” the former president said at the time, pointing to the looming debate over the country’s overall fiscal health.
As McConnell looks to the Senate map next year, he hopes to win in states like Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – which were all carried by President Joe Biden last fall – and a protracted fight with Trump could potentially dampen enthusiasm and hurt GOP candidates on the ground.
With the Senate evenly divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, there is no margin for error, especially as both parties will soon ramp up spending for congressional races as 2022 approaches.
McConnell, a prodigious fundraiser, has led the Senate Republican caucus since 2007, serving as majority leader from 2015 until 2021.
In a recent interview with the Journal, Trump did not reveal if he was searching for a lawmaker to challenge McConnell, but expressed support for new leadership and said that Senate Republicans should remove the Bluegrass State politician from the top post.
“They ought to,” the former president said. “I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party.”
However, McConnell has long possessed a strong grip over the caucus, especially on big votes like the $US1.9 ($AU3) trillion COVID-19 bill signed into law in March that didn’t receive the support of any Republican senators.
“Naw, I’m not going to get in that fight,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville told The Journal. The first-term Alabama conservative, who defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones last fall, said that McConnell “is doing a good job.”
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who is up for reelection next year, told The Journal that the odds of anyone ousting McConnell were virtually nil.
“I just don’t realistically see that happening,” he told the newspaper.
McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, easily won reelection to a seventh term last year.