Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday pledged that if Republicans win back control of Congress next year they could be a check against the Biden administration, forcing it into the political center.
McConnell, speaking at an event in Kentucky, said that American voters have a “big decision” to make in 2022, when control of both the House and Senate are up for grabs.
“Do they really want a moderate administration or not? If the House and Senate were to return to Republican hands that doesn’t mean nothing happens,” McConnell said.
“What I want you to know is if I become the majority leader again it’s not for stopping everything. It’s for stopping the worst. It’s for stopping things that fundamentally push the country into a direction that at least my party feels is not a good idea for the country,” he added. “And I could make sure Biden makes his promise … to be a moderate.”
Democrats are trying to keep their majorities in both the House, where they have a nine-seat advantage, and the Senate, which is evenly split but where they have the majority since Vice President Harris is able to break ties.
Republicans are feeling increasingly bullish about their chances of winning back the House, particularly as they look to take advantage of redistricting at the state level that could weaken Democrats’ hold on key seats.
In the Senate, Democrats are defending 14 seats compared to Republicans’ 20. Republicans view Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock (Ga.) and Mark Kelly (Ariz.) as top targets. The Cook Political Report rates both seats as “lean D.”
But Republicans are also defending four open seats. Pennsylvania, one of those states, as well as Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R), is mulling whether to run again, are states that were won by Biden in 2020.
The Cook Political Report rates both the Pennsylvania and North Carolina seats as toss-ups, and Johnson’s seat as “lean R.”
McConnell’s pledge Thursday to force Biden to be a moderate isn’t the first time he’s painted a GOP-controlled Congress as a potential counterweight to a Democratic White House.
As the two Georgia runoffs after the November election kept which party would control the Senate in limbo, McConnell made a similar pledge, which he recalled while speaking in Kentucky on Thursday.
“The Georgia Senate races, however, do determine whether or not the Democrats will control the entire government. … Winning in Georgia guarantees that the new president will be a moderate, because he won’t have any choice,” McConnell said during a January Fox News interview.
Democrats ultimately won both Georgia seats, which had been held by Republicans heading into the runoff.
But McConnell, on Thursday, argued that Biden was misreading the results of the election.
“The American people right now I think have given us a 50-50 government. It could go either way. … He’s in my view misread the mandate from last year. I don’t think the American people voted for all of this,” he said.
McConnell and Biden have a decades-long relationship including serving in the Senate together and cutting deals during the Obama administration. But McConnell has repeatedly said that he personally likes Biden while accusing his former colleague of shifting to the left.
“The notion that we have no collegiality, that we’re all at each other’s throats all the time is simply not true. But there are big differences between the parties,” McConnell said.