If Republican voters had any lingering doubts about whether their party deserved to lose the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, the Senate GOP just gave them a whole host of reasons to reaffirm such suspicions. In a less than 24-hour period, Republican senators took a series of actions that ran contrary to the wishes of their base, from reelecting Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as leader of the Senate GOP to trampling on traditional marriage.
In a vote held behind closed doors on Wednesday, McConnell reportedly secured the votes of 37 Republican senators to maintain his position as party leader. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who launched a last-minute bid to unseat McConnell, received only 10 votes.
While a full breakdown of the vote has not yet been released, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and several of his GOP colleagues motioned for the party’s leadership vote to be delayed until after Georgia’s Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker. The motion ultimately failed, with 32 rejecting the proposal and 16 supporting it.
Following the vote, McConnell giddily ran to the press to proclaim to Republican voters that he’s “not going anywhere,” after indirectly bashing grassroots GOP Senate candidates with the “candidate quality” talking point the day before.
“We learned some lessons about this [election cycle] and I think the lesson is pretty clear: Senate races are different. Candidate quality — you recall I said in August — is important,” he said Tuesday.
McConnell’s Midterm Meddling
In his bid to maintain his position as party leader, McConnell worked throughout the 2022 midterms to sabotage several battleground-state GOP Senate candidates who had pledged not to support him for leadership if they were elected to the upper chamber. In Arizona, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund cut $18 million in ad spending from Republican Blake Masters, while the group simultaneously slashed $5.6 million in New Hampshire that was intended for Don Bolduc.
Alternatively, McConnell redirected many of these funds to Alaska, where incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski was facing off against conservative Republican Kelly Tshibaka. Even though it was all but guaranteed that a Republican would win the seat, McConnell proceeded to spend over $6 million in ads attacking Tshibaka, who said she would not back McConnell’s bid for party leader.
Disrespect for Marriage
Despite conservatives’ justified animus towards McConnell, Senate Republicans decided they weren’t quite finished betraying their voters on Wednesday. Hours after the party’s leadership vote, a dozen GOP senators seemingly thought to themselves, “Ah, why not?” and jumped in bed with Senate Democrats to advance a measure seeking to rewrite the definition of marriage.
Known as the “Respect for Marriage Act,” the legislation would open the door for left-wing activist groups to declare a legal war against religious Americans and institutions choosing to follow the Word of God. The bill could potentially allow for “open marriages [and] marriages involving a minor or relative,” and also leaves the door open for concepts like leftists’ radical gender theory to become federal law.
Among the Republican senators that supported advancing such dangerous legislation to a final Senate vote included Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Rob Portman of Ohio, Todd Young of Indiana, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
Unlike his cowardly colleagues, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who indicated in July that he was open to supporting the bill, listened to his constituents and voted against moving the measure forward, saying in a statement that “those with sincerely held religious beliefs should not be discriminated against for their views on marriage.”
Establishment Republicans Despise the Base
If Senate Republicans were looking for anyone to blame for their disastrous performance in the midterms, they need only look in the mirror. Within the past year alone, Republicans in the upper chamber have helped President Joe Biden and Democrats advance their leftist agenda at nearly every turn. Whether it’s been passing gun control legislation, approving Biden’s judicial nominees, or urging the president to import more foreign visa workers, Senate Republicans have regularly sold out conservatives in favor of glowing media coverage and interests not aligned with those of their constituents.
Yet, even after their nonexistent showing at the ballot box last week, many Senate Republicans have continued to double down on the same behavior that lost them control of the upper chamber in the first place.
For years, the old Republican guard in Congress has routinely looked down on conservatives and their efforts to bring about change in Washington. To many of them, American restorationists are just faceless votes needed to maintain power on Election Day, not people who have real problems and concerns regarding the direction of the country.
McConnell and his fellow cronies in the GOP establishment have done nothing to earn the votes of the American people, let alone a Senate majority. Until they’re removed from power in competitive primaries, conservatives can expect the same, played-out cycle where Republicans pledge to stand for our values while simultaneously stabbing us in the back.
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood
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