Top Senate Republican holds off challenge

Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell has held off a challenge to his leadership as some of Donald Trump's closest allies in Congress lashed out at Republican leaders after a weaker-than-expected midterm election performance.

McConnell fended off the first challenge in his nearly 16-year reign as party chief, as Senator Rick Scott tried to unseat him as minority leader, contending that the "DC swamp" was to blame for the party's inability to win a Senate majority.

That bid failed, even after Trump had repeatedly called for McConnell's ouster and promoted Scott as a replacement. McConnell drew Trump's ire by recognising Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Trump, who launched his own 2024 White House candidacy on Tuesday, falsely claims he lost because of fraud.

"I'm not, in any way, offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition," an elated-looking McConnell told reporters after the vote on Wednesday.

Thirty-seven Republicans voted for McConnell, who is positioned to become the longest-serving party leader in Senate history next year, while 10 supported Scott and one voted "present".

Despite Republican hopes for a "red wave" in the November 8 elections, they failed to reverse Democrats' razor-thin Senate majority. They appear to be on course to win a narrow House majority, having won 217 of the 218 seats they would need, with 10 still uncalled.

Scott and his supporters have criticised McConnell for not putting forward a party agenda during the midterm campaign. The elections left the Senate in the hands of Democrats, with 50 votes in the 100-seat chamber and Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

Democrats could win outright majority control if they win a run-off election in Georgia on December 6.