The minority leader who takes pride in his status as the “grim reaper” of his rivals’ agenda has allowed Democrats to claim policy victories as his party’s hopes of reclaiming the Senate dim.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
By Annie Karni
WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, spent the summer watching Democrats score a series of legislative victories of the sort he once swore he would thwart.
His party’s crop of candidate recruits has struggled to gain traction, threatening his chances of reclaiming the Senate majority.
And this week, his dispute with the leader of the Republicans’ Senate campaign arm escalated into a public war.
As the Senate prepares to return to Washington next week for a final stint before the midterm congressional elections, Mr. McConnell is entering an autumn of discontent, a reality that looks far different from where he was expecting to be at the start of President Biden’s term.
Back then, the top Senate Republican spoke of dedicating himself full time to “stopping this new administration” and predicted that Democrats would struggle to wield their razor-thin majorities, giving Republicans an upper hand to win back both the House and the Senate.
Instead, the man known best for his ability to block and kill legislation — he once proclaimed himself the “grim reaper” — has felt the political ground shift under his feet. Democrats have, in the space of a few months, managed to pass a gun safety compromise, a major technology and manufacturing bill, a huge veterans health measure, and a climate, health and tax package — either by steering around Mr. McConnell or with his cooperation.
At the same time, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade appears to have handed Democrats a potent issue going into the midterm elections, brightening their hopes of keeping control of the Senate.
Mr. McConnell has acknowledged the challenges. He conceded recently that Republicans had a stronger chance of winning back the House than of taking power in the Senate in November, in part because of “candidate quality.”
The comment was widely interpreted to reflect Mr. McConnell’s growing concern about Republicans’ roster of Senate recruits, heavily influenced by former President Donald J. Trump and his hard-right supporters, who have earned Mr. Trump’s endorsement but appear to be struggling in competitive races.
It also hinted at a more basic problem that has made Mr. McConnell’s job all the more difficult: his increasingly bitter rift with Mr. Trump, which has put him at odds with the hard-right forces that hold growing sway in the Republican Party.
More Coverage of the 2022 Midterm Elections
“Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate,” Mr. Trump wrote in a social media post last month that also took aim at Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, calling her “crazy.” Ms. Chao served as transportation secretary in the Trump administration until she abruptly resigned after the Jan. 6 attack.
Anti-Trump conservatives argue that Mr. McConnell put himself in an untenable position by failing to fully repudiate Mr. Trump after the assault on the Capitol, when the Kentucky Republican could have engineered a conviction at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, removing him and barring him from holding office again.
“It’s like the zombie movie where he comes back to haunt and horrify you,” said Bill Kristol, the conservative columnist. Mr. McConnell, he said, “thought he could have a good outcome legislatively and politically in 2022 without explicitly pushing back on Trump. That was the easier course. It may turn out to be a very self-defeating course for him.”
Source: Read Full Article