Mitch McConnell 'teetering' as Trump forces Republicans to choose their allegiance: analysis
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AFP/File / NICHOLAS KAMM)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appears weaker than he has been in years — and not just because he could lose everything if the Georgia Senate runoffs go against him. Outgoing President Donald Trump is forcing Senate Republicans to choose between loyalty to him and loyalty to McConnell — and the result could be a fractured caucus that is hard to control over the next four years.

"This power struggle will help define everything from the future of conservatism and right-wing media, including Fox News, to President-elect Biden's ability to win Republican cooperation in office," reported Axios. "More broadly and more importantly, the outcome will determine if Trumpism — and its norm-smashing tactics — come to permanently define one of America's two major political parties."

The first major test of this divide is the doomed effort by Republicans in Congress to block certification of the Electoral College vote, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) — something McConnell has warned his colleagues against, but Trump has encouraged.

"The more immediate challenge is to McConnell and the considerable sway he's held over Senate Republicans," wrote Russell Berman for The Atlantic. "McConnell's influence during the Biden administration will depend on his ability to keep Republicans unified — whether to block a progressive agenda in the majority or to stifle the new president using the Senate filibuster in the minority. But three weeks before Biden's inauguration, McConnell's conference is splintering over the outgoing president, with a growing faction of Trump loyalists willing to ignore the majority leader's pleas."

"McConnell isn't exactly in danger of irrelevance. There's been no serious talk of a challenge to his leadership position, and the legislative filibuster will grant McConnell plenty of clout even if Republicans lose both Senate races in Georgia and, with them, their majority," wrote Berman. "But either way, he'll have to manage a conference divided between Republicans inclined to work with Biden on bipartisan deals (such as Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah) and a dozen or more conservatives who won't even acknowledge the Democrat's legitimacy as president."