Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has secured his seventh term in the US Senate after fending off an election challenge in Kentucky from Democrat Amy McGrath.
Although Ms McGrath raised $30 million more than Mr McConnell, it was not enough to boot the majority leader out of office in the Republican-dominated state.
In a nine-minute speech, Mr McConnell praised his opponent – a former Marine fighter pilot and called for unity.
“My opponent ran a spirited race, she stood up for her views and won a lot of votes,” Mr McConnell said. “I applaud her willingness to step forward.”
He then called for unity before siding with the Republican race on culture war issues while rebuking chatter of dramatically transforming the Senate and the courts should Democrats win control of the chamber.
“We don’t know yet which presidential candidate will begin a new term when January ends,” he said. “We don’t know which party will control the Senate, but some things are certain.
“We know great challenges will remain before us, challenges that could not care less about our political polarisation. We know our next president will need to unite the country.”
But he also rebuked Black Lives Matter protesters for tearing down statues, including those of Confederate generals and US founders who owned slaves, in recent months.
“This is no time to tear down statues of our founders and heroes,” he said. “This is the time to follow their example.”
Mr McConnell also addressed calls from much of the Democratic base to abandon the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to get most legislation passed instead of 51, as well as expand the size of the Supreme Court.
“This is no time to declare war on our institutions because one side is angry that the framers made it hard to achieve radical change,” he said.
Mr McConnell expedited the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett last month despite refusing to give former president Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a Senate vote in 2016 on the grounds it was an election year.
This drastically tipped the court’s balance of power to favour conservative-aligned justices, and prompted calls among many Democratic rank and file voters to expand the Supreme Court’s size – a process known as court packing.
Former vice president Joe Biden has vowed to establish a bipartisan committee to study potential court reforms should he win the presidency.