Senate McConnell pushes back against Republican Party censure over Trump critics

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell on Tuesday criticized his party’s censorship of two prominent Republican critics of Donald Trump, joining an intra-party battle that could upend his efforts to project an image of party moderation this year. midterm elections.

Last week, the Republican National Committee censured Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only two Republicans serving on the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, when then-President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a dud. attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020.

“The question is whether or not the RNC should single out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,” McConnell told a news conference.

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The RNC intervened on Friday, calling the Democratic-led commission’s investigation an attack on “legitimate political speech”.

McConnell dismissed that description, saying, “We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection to try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. ‘other. It was what it was.”

The controversy comes as Republicans hope to regain a majority in the House and Senate in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader and one of his party’s shrewdest political tacticians, tried to portray Biden as a former moderate radicalized by the Democratic Party’s left wing. Projecting an image of moderation for Republicans could help the party’s Senate candidates in key states.

Lawmakers close to McConnell found themselves on the defensive over the RNC’s censure resolution.

“They said in the resolution that they wanted Republicans to be unified. It was not a unifying action,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

Senate Republican leaders were quick to recognize the problems party divisions could pose for Republican Senate candidates.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at the U.S. Capitol after a Senate Republican Caucus luncheon in Washington, U.S. January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/ File Photo

“If we want to win the November election, there are better things to focus on,” said Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the House after McConnell.

“The focus now has to be on the front, not the back. If we’re going to get majorities in the fall, it’s better to turn our fire against the Democrats and not against each other,” added Money.

Others pointed to Senate Republican criticism of the RNC as a problem for candidates in some states.

“Whatever you think of the RNC vote, it reflects the view of most Republicans,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri who opposed the 2020 election results on Jan. 6.

“In my state, there’s no point in having a bunch of DC Republicans commenting on the RNC…super pointless,” he said.

Democrats could be vulnerable in November, especially given Biden’s downfall public approval numbers in opinion polls. The party of incumbent presidents typically loses seats in Congress in the first midterm elections after winning the White House.

McConnell has sought to portray Biden and his costly “Build Back Better” social spending plan that is stalled in the Senate as creatures of the Democratic Party’s left wing. McConnell accused Biden of ignoring issues facing American families, such as inflation, including rising energy costs.

“If the president starts acting like a moderate, like he campaigned, we can do business,” McConnell told Fox News last month.

While McConnell calls for bipartisanship, he has often been a partisan warrior himself. As Majority Leader, he declined to consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy and said last year he could block Biden’s High Court nominees if the Republicans took control of the Senate. He also used the Senate filibuster rule to thwart parts of Biden’s legislative agenda, including the right to vote.

McConnell delivered critical Republican votes last year for two bipartisan priorities — a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and an agreement to avoid a federal government debt default. Both prompted furious statements from Trump, who called for McConnell’s ousting from his leadership position in the Senate.

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Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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