Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signaled on Thursday that he, like half a dozen of his Republican colleagues, may not show up at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Jacksonville, Florida for President Donald Trump’s official nomination next month.
“It’s a challenging situation and a number of my colleagues announced they are not going to attend,” McConnell told Enquirer Media reporter Chris Mayhew during a visit at the Gravity Diagnostics lab in Covington, Kentucky.
“And we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people,” the senator added.
McConnell’s remark was a step back from his spokesperson’s claim earlier this week that the GOP leader “has every intention” of attending the RNC.
Over the past week, five Republican senators have stated that they would not be at the convention: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT). Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) told reporters on Thursday that he “will probably not” go.
The spate of absences began on Monday with Grassley, who announced that he would not be going to the event due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Grassley was the only one who cited the virus as their reason for skipping the convention. Alexander’s office said the Tennessee senator “believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had,” while one of Collins’ aides told the Washington Post that the Maine senator has never attended an RNC that took place in the same year she was running for reelection, as she is now.
Murkowski and Romney, both of whom have publicly criticized Trump, have not explained their absences.
Roberts stated on Thursday that he was unlikely to attend the convention because “I have some things to do in Kansas that I got to do and unfortunately I didn’t know what was canceled and what was not and whatever.”
The RNC, which was originally slated to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, was relocated to Jacksonville after Trump demanded that the event be held in a state that would allow full attendance at the venue, despite the pandemic and a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida.