McConnell Criticizes RNC Censure over 1/6

Better than nothing, but still not enough.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today on the subject of 1/6 and the RNC’s censure of Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger:

“We saw it happen. 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.”

An accurate description, so that’s good to hear from one of the leaders of the GOP. Still, given his willingness to filibuster a bipartisan investigation of those events, the words ring a bit hollow.

His specific criticism of the RNC was more politic than was deserved and not a repudiation:

“Traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party, regardless of their positions on some issues,” he said. “The issue is whether or not the R.N.C. should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views of the majority. That’s not the job of the R.N.C.”

Still, it is worth reiterating that McConnell called 1/6 “a violent insurrection” and acknowledges the 2020 elections as “a legitimately certified election.” This is better than the majority of his party at the moment.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Scott O says:

    “ Better than nothing, but still not enough.”

    Indeed. I wonder what’s going on in his mind. Does he think he can ride the tiger but he’s trying to tell the beast to slow down? Good luck Mitch.

  2. Ken_L says:

    And yet he will offer unstinting support to the man who instigated the insurrection should he be nominated as his party’s candidate for the presidency in 2024. McConnell gives a whole new dimension to profound political cynicism in the cause of seeking power.

    And instead of condemning him in robust terms, Biden stands up and tells everyone what great friends they are. No wonder so many Americans can’t be bothered voting.

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  3. Dude Kembro says:

    @Ken_L: But isn’t this instinct for bipartisan reconciliation a large part of why Biden won? Ofttimes our strengths are our undoing.

    If Sen. McConnell says Jan 6 was an insurrection, then hopefully we’ll no longer be told the description is Democratic grandstanding.

    Wonder if McConnell regrets killing the bipartisan House bill creating an independent Jan 6 commission. Or if he’s just getting nervous about the midterms —
    with COVID receding, job growth booming, unpopular attacks on teachers and books growing, and Democrats way closer in generic ballot polling than history and Biden’s approval average say they should be.

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  4. Lounsbury says:

    @Ken_L: Politics involves compromise with the other side. Diplomats praise their counterparties for frank and useful conversations. Such is human relations. Of course political activist partisans prefer red meat and war.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “We saw it happen. 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.”

    These words are every bit as hollow as the words he uttered on 1/7. His actions since speak far more truly of what is in his heart.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    Even when I was voting Republican, I wasn’t much of a McConnell fan. He’s pure politics with very little policy. But, ultimately, he’s trying to ride out the storm and survive as the leader of a post-Trump party.

    @Scott O:

    Does he think he can ride the tiger but he’s trying to tell the beast to slow down?

    He can’t go full Liz Cheney or he’d be stripped of his leadership position. The Senate isn’t as Trumpy as the House but it’s pretty close.
    @Dude Kembro:

    Wonder if McConnell regrets killing the bipartisan House bill creating an independent Jan 6 commission.

    See above. There simply never was going to be Republican cooperation for a commission that was going to make it look bad.

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    These words are every bit as hollow as the words he uttered on 1/7. His actions since speak far more truly of what is in his heart.

    The only thing in his heart is a desire to retain power. It’s cynical as hell but, if Mitt Romney or Larry Hogan somehow emerged as the GOP nominee, McConnell would be an enthusiastic supporter. In the more likely case that it’s Trump or Trump 2.0, he’ll be a less enthusiastic but dutiful supporter.

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  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    @James Joyner: This leads to an interesting question: Has McConnell decided that the politics works better for him this way – calling it an insurrection – or is this that rare exception where he just has had enough and didn’t appreciate having to be evacuated from the Capitol?

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  8. ptfe says:

    “That’s what it was.” vs “[M]embers of our party who may have different views of the majority.”

    Is there something more bare than simply “nakedly political”?

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Jay L Gischer: It’s really hard to say. Kentucky is a pretty Trumpy state, with a 25.9% margin for re-election.

    @ptfe: It’s truly sad but I guess not surprising given the incentive structure.

  10. DK says:

    @James Joyner:

    There simply never was going to be Republican cooperation for a commission that was going to make it look bad.

    You mean cooperation in creation or in investigation, or both? Or neither?

    Non-cooperation as a foregone conclusion doesn’t comport with the contours of last spring’s debate. The original independent commission bill was negotiated in part by some relatively Trumpy Republicans and passed the House with 35 GOP votes (over twice as many Republican votes as the vaunted “bipartisan infrastructure bill”).

    Then in the senate, the commission bill was on its way to passage until McConnell pulled support, no?

    A good chunk of Republicans seemed on board, and then not, and now McConnell is pretty much supporting the House committee’s work. So I’m not sure your “never” is the most accurate word. Certainly, most Republicans would have been hostile, always — but something seems to have changed before and it’s still changing.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: The only thing in his heart is a desire to retain power.

    DINGDINGDING!!! We have a winner.

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  12. mattbernius says:

    @DK:
    Looking at reporting from the time, I think any support the Senate Republicans had for a commission was to come up with something that was essentially toothless or an investigation that wouldn’t be able to seriously look at Trump’s involvement in the event. The moment where it became clear that they were not going to be able to do that, support was pulled:

    See for example: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/19/mcconnell-opposes-houses-bipartisan-jan-6-commission-bill-489573

    The focus on “the panel needs to be bipartisan” is a bit of a giveaway in that there was no way to have a bipartisan (as Republicans legislators define it) investigation staffed with House and Senate Republicans who as a majority reject outright the idea that Trump’s had any significant role in the day.

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  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t think McConnell is very worried about his own re-election. But I think he does have an eye on a Senate majority. In another post here today, his overtures to Larry Hogan to run for the Senate are mentioned. I’d bet Larry Hogan is happy to call it an “insurrection”.

    Has McConnell crossed the line of saying that Trump bears responsibility for the insurrection? I don’t remember that he did, but that might yet happen. I’m pretty sure he thinks Trump is bad for his prospects, not good.

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  14. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, ultimately, [McConnell’s] trying to ride out the storm and survive as the leader of a post-Trump party.

    Good luck with that, Mitch. This assumes the party will survive Trumpism (let alone Trump himself) and I see no evidence of that. There will be some form of the GOP on the other side of the storm and the esteemed Senator from Kentucky will adapt as he always has, but it’s going to look a lot more like Josh Hawley’s party than Larry Hogan’s.

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  15. Kathy says:

    Ah, if only Mitch had had a chance to vote to convict Little Benito at either one of his impeachments.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    Like most of us, McConnell’s job is to do what the people who pay him want (and that ain’t the taxpayers who pay his salary). Trump was an accident for the Party. He entered the primaries for publicity, hoping to squeak into double digits. To his own surprise as much as anyone’s, he started winning. It became support Trump or risk, horror of horrors, a D win. Once he was in it was a matter of living with him and coopting him as best they could. Getting Pence, Koch’s lapdog, picked as veep was a triumph of cooption.

    But Moscow and his paymasters know Trump cost them 2020. Had he been minimally competent and stayed off Twitter he’d have won. But he drove D turnout. Moscow and the boys know that the D ads with “legitimate political expression” overlaid on the worst videos of 1/6 are coming. And they know Trump on the ticket, or even highly visible in the background, will again drive D turnout. But he still fires up GOP base turnout. Rock and hardplace. They never wanted him, they dearly want rid of him, but how to do it?

    They’re carefully watching poll numbers hoping to be able to turn, carefully, on Trump. Maybe this week we’re seeing evidence that their internal poll numbers hit some threshold. And the difference between McConnel and McCarty is mostly that senate seats aren’t gerrymandered.

  17. DK says:

    @mattbernius: Ah, I see. I think Sen. McConnell miscalculated. An independent commission would have been styled after the 9/11 Commission: comprised of retired elder statesmen, not with currently serving members. That could have benefitted Republicans compared the current House committee.

    One, it would have slowed the investigation, removiing it from the news cycle. The current committee wants to report before the midterms. An independent probe could have lasted years, allowing Jan 6 to fade in impact.

    Two, as with the 9/11 Commission and Mueller Investigation, the elder statesperson types involved are allergic to the political fray. The 9/11 Commission was careful not to blame Clinton or Bush, but rather interagency breakdowns. Mueller punted to congress. Likely Trump and the GOP would’ve gotten similar deference from a Jan 6 commission.

    Three, Moscow Mitch should have anticipated Democrats would counter with a House committee including anti-Trump Republucans, another Pelosi masterstroke. Cheney and Kinzinger now have bigger than ever platforms. That’s dividing Republicans in a way a 9/11-style commission outside congress would not.

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