In a remarkable floor speech, on his last full day as Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was clear in his rebuke of those who lied to, radicalized, and provoked insurrectionists to attack the US Capitol.
McConnell’s remarks also outlined how the attack was, as defined by law, an insurrection to disrupt the Constitutional process of government:
The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to try to stop a specific process of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.
But we pressed on. We said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night. We certified the people’s choice for their 46th President.
McConnell then turned to a defiant, upbeat tone regarding the inauguration:
Tomorrow, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn in. We’ll have a safe and successful Inaugural right here on the West Front of the Capitol, the space that President Bush 41 called “democracy’s front porch”.
And then we’ll move forward. Our work for the American people will continue as it has for more than 230 years. There are serious challenges that our nation needs to continue confronting, but there will also be great and hopeful opportunities for us to seize.
In a third segment of McConnell’s scene-setting, ahead of tomorrow’s transfer of power, the outgoing Majority Leader sought to paint the moment as one where political rivals can find common ground and disagree respectfully:
Certainly, November’s elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change. Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House, and a Presidential candidate who said he’d represent everyone.
So, our marching orders from the American people are clear: We’re to have a robust discussion and seek common ground. We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can and check and balance one another respectfully, where we must.
And through all of this, we must always keep in mind that we’re all Americans. We all love this country, and we’re all in this together.
Sen. McConnell’s remarks since members of his party sought to overturn the results of the election, have been more conciliatory than we are used to. Informed observers note he is about to give up power, and is calling for a more cooperative approach than he has ever been willing to offer.
It is also clear, however, from his remarks on January 6, before the attack on the Capitol, and today, that he rejects the effort by some in his party to question the legality or fairness of the 2020 election. It is also significant that he has directly placed blame at the feet of Donald Trump, who will soon be tried for incitement of insurrection, with the US Senate sitting as judge and jury.
Sen. Rand Paul, the other Republican Senator representing Kentucky, recently said convicting Trump in the Senate would cause “one-third” of Senate Republicans to leave their party. It is unclear what information he was referencing, if any, but McConnell today has suggested that he takes a different view—that saving the Republican Party from the debasement and disloyalty of Trump might well require a vote to convict.