Senate Democrats Have Mixed Feelings About Mitch McConnell Stepping Down

It's not clear if the Republican leader's successors would support Ukraine or regular government functioning as much as McConnell did.

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a scourge for Democrats, a Supreme Court seat-stealer who voted to acquit Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection in his attempt to remain president.

But Democrats aren’t exactly cheered by the Kentucky Republican’s announcement that he would step down from party leadership later this year since someone worse could replace him.

“I’ve disagreed with Mitch McConnell a whole lot more than I’ve agreed with him, but he mostly has fought to keep government functioning,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told HuffPost.

In recent months, McConnell has spoken out against government shutdowns and in favor of sending aid to Ukraine for its defensive war against Russia. Increasing numbers of House and Senate Republicans are Ukraine skeptics who also openly favor holding the federal budget hostage.

“Watching the latest craziness around funding for Ukraine and passing the budget leaves me worried that, while I’m no fan of McConnell’s, we could do a lot worse on the Republican side,” Warren said.

Other Democrats offered similar sentiments. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised McConnell for collaborating on a major coronavirus relief bill in 2020 and for “recently working together to fund the fight for Ukraine.”

The Senate passed a Ukraine aid bill earlier this month, but the legislation is stalled in the House, where House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has hesitated to give it a vote for fear of backlash from Trump devotees in the House GOP conference. Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president, has recently suggested Russia should go ahead and attack other U.S. allies in Europe.

“I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” McConnell said Wednesday in a Senate floor speech announcing his plan to resign from leadership in November. “I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

McConnell’s support for Ukraine could become a part of his legacy as the Senate’s longest-serving party leader, but he’s already established other legacies.

In 2016, McConnell blocked consideration of then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, after the Feb. 13 death of Antonin Scalia, dubiously claiming the Senate couldn’t confirm such a high-profile judge in an election year. Then, in 2020, he changed his position so that Trump could replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18, with Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed Oct. 26, a week before Trump lost reelection. Two years later, Barrett and the two other justices nominated by Trump joined in overturning Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for states to outlaw abortion.

“He’s been very steadfast on Ukraine, which I greatly respect, but on the other hand, he is probably the principal reason the Supreme Court is so out of alignment with the mainstream of America,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.

Another part of McConnell’s legacy: Donald Trump. McConnell forcefully denounced Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying there was “no question” Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” But when it came time for the Senate to vote on Trump’s impeachment for inciting an insurrection, in February 2021, McConnell voted to acquit, claiming Trump was “constitutionally not eligible for conviction” because he’d already left office.

Fifty-seven senators voted to convict Trump ― 10 short of the supermajority needed. McConnell’s vote by itself didn’t drive the outcome, but if he had made a different decision, it would likely have influenced other Republicans to do the same.

“He was at the height of a lot of his power at that point,” Blumenthal said of McConnell, “so it would have been very compelling if he had said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

If Trump had been convicted in his Senate trial, he would have been constitutionally disqualified from holding office again, meaning he (probably) would not be running for president now.

As Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) put it, “Had the Republicans, like some of their colleagues, voted to impeach Trump in the second trial, we wouldn’t be dealing with him today.”

Popular in the Community


What's Hot