McConnell's two-step portends challenge for Biden and Schumer

Perhaps the most powerful Senate leader since LBJ, McConnell sets the chamber’s agenda whether in the majority or, as he is now, the minority. This reality has huge consequences as President Biden pushes for coronavirus relief, confirmation of his nominees and legislation crucial to Democrats’ popularity ahead of midterms.

The Kentucky Republican’s survival instincts were on display Saturday at the end of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. McConnell previewed, then cast, his influential vote against convicting the former president — only to deliver a blistering condemnation of Trump just after his acquittal, noting he can still be held accountable for his actions in civil or criminal courts.

McConnell’s two-step allows him to maintain fidelity with the majority of the Republican caucus while trying to damage Trump’s chances at a comeback, and claiming some moral high ground with the broader American electorate.

In areas where Democrats may now hold the votes to steamroll McConnell — such as using budget reconciliation power to pass COVID relief with a simple majority — he is positioning Republicans as the victims rather than drivers of partisan excess.