Mitch McConnell mocks Steve Bannon's 'political genius'
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has used a Christmas press conference to mock former White House adviser Steve Bannon's "political genius" in costing Republicans a Senate seat from Alabama.
Mr McConnell made the remark 10 days after the Bannon-backed Roy Moore lost a special election to Doug Jones, giving Democrats their first victory in an Alabama Senate race in a quarter of a century.
Mr Moore faced multiple allegations of improper conduct with teenagers from decades ago and touted extremist views that repelled many women and minorities.
Mr McConnell told reporters: "The political genius on display, throwing away a seat in the reddest state in America, is hard to ignore."
Mr Bannon, who was US president Donald Trump's strategist, has returned to the right-wing Breitbart News and has been openly seeking other Republican candidates who, like Mr Moore, would support toppling Mr McConnell as majority leader.
Mr McConnell backed incumbent senator Luther Strange in the Republican primary.
He declined to predict how many more Republican primaries there will be next year in which far-right challengers try to oust incumbents.
Though Mr Trump also backed Mr Moore, Mr McConnell said he believes the White House "will be in the same place I am - want to nominate people who can actually win".
Following a summer that saw Mr Trump criticise Mr McConnell for the Senate's failure to repeal ex-president Barack Obama's health care law, the Senate Majority Leader described a "really good" working relationship with the president.
He said the 1.5 trillion dollar (£1.2 trillion) tax package Republicans pushed through Congress this week had "brought everybody together".
Mr McConnell echoed earlier remarks in which he has all but ruled out a 2018 effort to overhaul benefit programmes like welfare, saying such an effort would need bipartisan support in a senate that will be divided 51-49 next year.
He said he would devote floor time to bills "that have enough votes to pass".
Of Republican senators who want to continue trying to repeal Mr Obama's statute, Mr McConnell said he would like to do that, but added: "I wish them well."