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Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor in July. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is muscling out President Trump as the dominant day-to-day Republican powerbroker on Capitol Hill. 

Why it matters: Trump’s power persists, and will live on post-presidency. But McConnell — in his cunningly quiet but methodical way — is flexing his authority. It's a taste of a tension that will help define the next four years.

With President Trump offstage and in denial, McConnell conferred the Republican Party's validation of Joe Biden as president-elect, declaring on the Senate floor yesterday: "The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden."

  • Biden called to thank the Kentucky gentleman for the remarks, and told reporters: "There are things we can work together on. ... I'm looking forward to working with him."

A year-end coronavirus deal is alive — because McConnell says it is. McConnell said Tuesday: "We're not leaving here without a COVID package."

In his party's most consequential turning of the page, McConnell yesterday privately warned GOP senators not to join Trump’s extended assault on the Electoral College results.

  • McConnell said on a caucus call that any shenanigans on Jan. 6, when Congress will confirm the result in a joint session, would yield a “terrible vote” for Republicans.
  • In a real change of tune for the party, McConnell insisted there's "zero sentiment" for an objection.

What's next: Whether Republicans keep the Senate majority or not, McConnell will be the party's last word on what lives and dies from Biden's Hill agenda.

  • "He is the obstacle to — and facilitator of — progress," a longtime McConnell associate told Axios.

The bottom line: Remember that McConnell called his autobiography "The Long Game."

  • He played it, and won. We're about to see an epic next round.
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Go deeper

Ronna McDaniel says RNC would stay "neutral" in primaries if Trump ran in 2024

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told the AP on Wednesday that if former President Trump runs again in 2024, the GOP will remain "neutral" during the primary season.

Why it matters: McDaniel has been staunchly supportive of the former president, who endorsed her to keep running the RNC. She now must focus on regaining majorities in Congress, especially as the Republican party reckons with what the GOP looks like after Trump, even as he remains hugely popular with his base.

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."