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McConnell ‘pulling’ for McCarthy before speaker vote

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday “of course” he wants House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to become speaker, even as he acknowledged uncertainty for the California Republican in the upcoming vote.

“I have no idea. I don’t know any more than I read from what you guys write. I’m just pulling for him,” McConnell said in an interview Tuesday.

The Senate Republican leader previously voiced support for McCarthy in late December, even as the House Republican criticized how Senate GOP lawmakers handled year-end government spending negotiations.

“I’m pulling for Kevin. I hope he makes it,” McConnell said at the time.

Other counsel for McCarthy came from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a crucial vote for Democrats over the last two years in an evenly split Senate, who urged McCarthy not to cave to all the demands of the conservatives.

“It just looks like a hostage standoff over there,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I just hope he doesn’t surrender to the hostage takers. Don’t pay a ransom.”

McConnell is due to become the longest-serving Senate party leader in history on Tuesday as McCarthy struggles to lock down sufficient support to become speaker of the House.

The two Republican leaders meet regularly to talk strategy, but have frequently found themselves voting differently during the first two years of President Joe Biden’s administration.

McConnell is due to appear alongside Biden at an event Wednesday in Kentucky, as McCarthy faces the prospect of a protracted speakership bid in the House.

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