© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at the weekly Republican Caucus lunch press conference at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2024. REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/File Photo
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell’s negotiations with Democrats to try to secure more Ukraine aid has drawn mounting attacks from hardliners within his party that some lawmakers say is a direct result of Donald Trump’s rising influence.
The Kentucky Republican, the chamber’s longest-serving party leader at 81, has faced more heat from hardliners since Trump, the party’s likely presidential nominee, torpedoed a bipartisan deal McConnell backed that aimed to stem the flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border and provide aid to Ukraine and Israel.
After party hardliners rejected that deal — which some had sought as a trade-off for the Ukraine aid — McConnell has continued to work with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to advance a standalone $95 billion security bill.
His willingness to work across the aisle — a practical necessity given a narrow Democratic majority — has become a liability among some of his Trump-aligned colleagues.
“Who has more influence? Probably Trump,” Senator Josh Hawley told reporters. “I mean, he’s the future. He is going to be the nominee of the party. He may well win in November. Senator McConnell is probably not the future.”
McConnell’s office declined to comment for this story. But he told U.S. media outlets last week that he has faced tough political times before and survived. On the Senate floor on Friday he said it was critical the U.S. aid Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s invasion.
“This is about rebuilding the arsenal of democracy and demonstrating to our allies and adversaries alike that we’re serious about exercising American strength,” McConnell said. “American assistance with these efforts is not charity. It’s an investment in cold, hard U.S. interests.”
Senator Mike Braun, an Indiana conservative, tied the level of opposition facing McConnell to the growing number of the 49 Republicans in the Senate who have endorsed Trump. So far at least 31 have backed him.
“More are coming along to see that the old way of thinking is not working,” Braun said.
Hardline Republicans have long been a major force in the House of Representatives, repeatedly flirting with government shutdowns and…