Politics & Policy

GOP Representative: Mitch McConnell ‘Next Guy in the Crosshairs’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) will be the next target of conservatives frustrated with party leadership, according to one of the conservative representatives who pressured House speaker John Boehner in the weeks leading up to his resignation.

“Next guy in the crosshairs will probably be McConnell,” Representative Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.) said in a text message to Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), according to National Journal’s Sarah Mimms. Lee replied that he doubts that will happen. 

Still, Salmon’s speculation reflects a theory of Boehner’s struggles that is common among the outgoing speaker’s friends and foes alike — that his unpopularity among the grassroots stems more from McConnell’s failure to take advantage of the Senate majority than anything House Republicans have done. If that’s true, then Boehner’s departure can hardly be expected to ease the tensions between GOP leadership and the conservative base or preempt more leadership fights in the future.

“People are frustrated with out Republican leadership, with Boehner and McConnell, and it’s not usually the third or fourth question that comes up — it’s the first question that comes up,” Representative Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.), who voted against Boehner in January, told National Review last week. “It’s happening at tea-party events, but it’s [also] happened at Republican breakfasts, it’s happening at donor meetings — there’s a deep frustration.”

Representative Trent Franks holds the same view, but believes that it can be relieved by the elimination of the filibuster rather than a change in leadership. “Unfortunately, the Republican base and even many esoteric Republican observers are not truly cognizant of how the Democrats’ insidious use of the filibuster is beginning to tear the House conference apart,” Franks said.

#share#Frustration with the Democratic filibusters has sparked a new debate among GOP lawmakers over whether to use the nuclear option to eliminate the legislative stalling tactic. That’s unlikely to happen, given that McConnell and even conservative firebrands such as Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) believe it is an important safeguard of minority rights.

But it’s also unlikely that McConnell will face a serious leadership challenge — if he faces any challenge at all. Cruz offered a sustained denunciation of McConnell’s job performance on Thursday afternoon, but demurred three times when asked if he thought Senate Republicans need a new leader. “That is a question, at the end of the day, for the Republican conference. At least to date, the Republican conference has been willing to accept leadership’s handing control of the agenda over to Democrats,” Cruz told reporters. “I hope that changes. . . . I would be thrilled if Mitch McConnell would actually lead.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

Most Popular

Elections

In Defense of the Electoral College

Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined a growing chorus within the Democratic party in calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Speaking at a forum in Mississippi on Monday night, Warren said that she hoped to ensure that “every vote matters” and proposed that “the way we can make that happen is ... Read More
Elections

Stick a Fork in O’Rourke

If, as I wrote last week here, Joe Biden may save the Democratic party from a horrible debacle at the polls next year, Beto O’Rourke may be doing the whole process a good turn now. Biden, despite his efforts to masquerade as the vanguard of what is now called progressivism, is politically sane and, if ... Read More
National Security & Defense

In Defense of the Iraq War

Today is the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and Twitter is alive with condemnations of the conflict -- countered by precious few defenses. Yet I believed the Iraq War was just and proper in 2003, and I still believe that today. When Donald Trump condemned the war during the 2015 primary campaign and ... Read More
Elections

Beto-mania and Our Cult of Personality Politics

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s biggest fans and supporters insist he is a forward-thinking, future-oriented visionary, but no contender for the Democratic nomination feels more familiar than the former three-term congressman from El Paso. That’s because he has the highest combined score in both déjà vu ... Read More