After several days of steering clear of the Republican National Committee’s decision to formally censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, Mitch McConnell tore the Band-Aid off on Tuesday.
Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju whether he had confidence in RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, McConnell said he did. But then the Senate GOP leader added this:
“The issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC.”
McConnell wasn’t done. As for the events of January 6, 2021, which the resolution condemning Cheney and Kinzinger had described as “legitimate political discourse,” the Kentucky Republican was similarly blunt.
“We all were here; we saw what happened,” said McConnell. “It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.”
The Senate minority leader almost certainly speaks for the many elected Republicans in Washington who expressed shock and dismay that the national party committee decided to make a move against Cheney and Kinzinger and seemed to downplay the motivations and actions of the rioters on January 6.
McConnell has consistently been one of the few members of Republican leadership willing to cross former President Donald Trump and his ongoing – and baseless – claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
McConnell’s positioning as an occasional Trump critic has led the former President to repeatedly attack the Senate GOP leader – labeling him an “old crow” who lacks the toughness to do what needs to be done to, uh, make America great again.
For his part, McConnell has studiously avoided even mentioning Trump’s name, while desperately trying to steer the party away from internecine fights that he views as a distraction from his goal: making the 2022 election a straight referendum on President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.
Unfortunately for McConnell, Trump and the RNC aren’t on board with that plan.
The Point: This latest dustup with the RNC looks more like the rule than the exception for McConnell in the coming months. And if Republicans fail to make the gains they expect in the midterms, the blame will fall directly on the eating of their own that Trump is encouraging almost daily.