McConnell Says GOP Senate Candidates Don't Need to Commit to Him

  • Senate leader wants Republican nominees who can win races
  • Trump’s agenda is ‘one and the same’ as majority Republicans

Facing a challenge to his leadership by former White House strategist Steve Bannon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his position doesn’t need to be a litmus test for Republican candidates.

“I’m not going to be on the ballot in any of these states, and I don’t think the candidates who are running need to take a position on me,” McConnell said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I don’t expect any candidate in America to sort of sign up on how they may vote for the majority leader of the Senate a year-and-a-half from now.”

Mitch McConnell

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bannon has said he plans to back Republican primary challengers who commit to ousting McConnell for his handling of the caucus as President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda has stalled. The populist forces already claimed a victory in Alabama when the conservative Roy Moore beat McConnell’s preferred candidate, Senator Luther Strange. In interviews on Fox News and CNN’s “State of the Union,” McConnell called Bannon’s efforts “inter-party skirmishes” that could threaten the Republican majority in the Senate.

McConnell warned that Bannon and his allies represent an “element” of the GOP who “are specialists in defeating Republican candidates” by picking ones who alienate the general electorate. McConnell said Republicans lost five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012 by nominating candidates who could not win general elections.

“Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win, and the people who win will be the ones who enact the president’s agenda,” McConnell said.

Giving Trump Credit

While Trump has made comments critical of McConnell’s leadership and failure to get a health-care bill passed, McConnell said in the CNN interview that the president hasn’t gotten enough credit for reducing regulations and other changes he’s brought to Washington.

McConnell also said the Republican agenda in the Senate is “one and the same” as Trump’s, and that’s what should drive the selection of Republican candidates.

“In order for president’s agenda to advance, we have to be able need to elect people who support the agenda,” McConnell said.

During the interview on Fox, McConnell also spoke about the “need to take a look at” regulating tech companies, though he said he did not know whether that was necessary.

Some Silicon Valley companies are facing fresh scrutiny about how Russian state actors used social networks and online platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google will send their top lawyers to Washington to testify in front of congressional committees on the issue Nov. 1.

“I think it’s in the early stages of trying to figure out what the way forward is,” McConnell said.

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