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Mitch McConnell criticizes the RNC for censuring 2 Republicans on Jan. 6 panel

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also challenged the RNC's characterization of the Jan. 6 riot as "legitimate political discourse."
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also challenged the RNC's characterization of the Jan. 6 riot as "legitimate political discourse."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized the Republican National Committee over its recent censure of two House Republicans, in a rare break with his party.

In remarks on Tuesday, McConnell criticized the way the RNC's resolution had described the Capitol riot and said the national party's role has traditionally been to support all of its members regardless of their positions. However, when asked, he said he continues to back RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel.

"The issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority," he said. "That's not the job of the RNC."

On Friday, the RNC censured Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their participation on the House panel investigating the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

The censure resolution says the RNC shall "immediately cease any and all support" of Cheney and Kinzinger as members of the Republican Party. McDaniel said in a statement added to the original resolution that the two "crossed a line" in their roles as committee members.

"They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol," she wrote.

McConnell (and many others, including Cheney) publicly disagreed with that characterization of Jan. 6.

"We all were here. We saw what happened," he said. "It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next."

The censure is largely symbolic for Kinzinger, who announced last year that he won't be seeking reelection. The situation is more complicated for Cheney, who has faced mounting attacks from her party — and was already removed from her House leadership role — over her public criticism of former President Donald Trump.

While the RNC passed the censure resolution with overwhelming support, it has gotten mixed reviews from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"A lot of rank-and-file Republicans I talked to on the Hill said they were fine with the censure but didn't want to get into the details about how the resolution characterized the attack," NPR congressional reporter Deirdre Walsh toldMorning Edition.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said the RNC vote "reflects the view of most Republican voters," underscoring just how much of the party's base continues to support the former president.

Others disagree, with some Senate Republicans viewing the censure resolution as a distraction and a mistake.

They want to focus on President Biden's performance while his approval ratings are down, Walsh said, and think the party should spend more energy on the midterms as a referendum on his economic record.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.