Senator Mitch McConnell re-elected to 7th term in Kentucky

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at the final campaign event of his 2020 campaign for U.S. Senate during a stop in Versailles, Kentucky, U.S., November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston via CBS New.

CBS News projects Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has won re-election in Kentucky. McConnell was elected to his seventh term, defeating Democratic candidate Amy McGrath.

McConnell, who is often criticized by his Democratic colleagues, is defending his title as majority leader, as several Senate seats are up for grabs. Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate, so a few races may determine if the Senate remains Republican or becomes a Democratic majority.

Hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September, McConnell announced the Senate would take up the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, with the final vote taking place before the election despite objections from Democrats, who had been slamming Republicans for pushing Barrett’s confirmation so close to Election Day.

Ahead of Barrett’s confirmation hearings, McConnell told reporters he had the votes to confirm the judge to the court. He also said during a speech on the Senate floor that Barrett was an “exceptional nominee.”

McConnell said “every escalation has been initiated from the other side,” blaming former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid for invoking the “nuclear option” in 2013.

The “nuclear option” changed the rules so only 51 votes would be needed to pass presidential nominees except for Supreme Court nominees. McConnell invoked the “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees in 2017 and argued Republicans had acted within the rules and within the constitution in blocking Merrick Garland’s confirmation.

Barrett ultimately became a Supreme Court Justice one week before Election Day.

McConnell’s opponent in the Senate race, former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, received national attention in this cycle when she raised over $41 million for her campaign. But She spent a large portion of that money in ads against her primary challenger, Charles Booker, a state representative. She sustained a fundraising advantage over McConnell in the closing months of the race.

She also was also backed by several high-profile Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

In her campaign ads, McGrath often highlighted her Kentucky roots and how she’d fight to get McConnell out of office. McConnell responded by calling her “Extreme Amy McGrath.”

During the candidates’ October debate, McGrath and McConnell both took shots at the other along partisan lines and McGrath tried to attack her opponent’s leadership.

She accused McConnell of prioritizing the Supreme Court over the lives of Kentuckians who need stimulus relief funds as Congress has deadlocked on a deal. The majority leader tried to cast blame on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Look, I know how to make deals. I made three major deals with Joe Biden during the Obama era,” McConnell said. “What the problem is here is the unwillingness of the Speaker to make a deal.”

Earlier this month, the majority leader told Senate Republicans that he urged the White House against making a deal on a large coronavirus stimulus bill ahead of the election, a source familiar confirmed to CBS News. He also stated publicly that he would bring a “presidentially-supported bill” to the Senate floor for a vote “at some point,” but his main focus in the final two weeks before Election Day was on confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice.

In the final week before election day, McConnell spoke to a crowd in Florence, Kentucky, saying McGrath represents a possible liberal takeover of the Senate. “This is the biggest election ever,” he said, CBS News affiliate WKRC-TV reports. “You would not recognize the Democrats now. Not even from the Obama presidency, not even from the convention of a Clinton presidency.

McConnell, a Louisville native, has been in the U.S. Senate since 1984. He became majority leader five years ago and says the experience has served Kentucky well with funding it would not have gotten otherwise, WKRC reports.

Grace Segers contributed to this report.

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