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McConnell to step down as Senate Republican leader

“Father Time remains undefeated,” McConnell said. “It is time for the next generation of leadership.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6, 2014. Credit: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6, 2014. Credit: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Wednesday that he will step down from Republican leadership in November.

“I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues, to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, however. I will complete the job my colleagues have given me until we select a new leader in November and they take the helm next January,” he said.

McConnell, 82, plans to finish his elected term, which ends in January 2027.

“Father Time remains undefeated,” he said. “It is time for the next generation of leadership.”

First elected to the Senate in 1984, McConnell is the longest-serving Senate leader of any party in U.S. history.

Both Democrats and Republicans recognized McConnell’s decades of service.

“American Democracy is based on elected representatives coming together and bridging their different points of view to find common ground on behalf of the American people,” U.S. President Joe Biden stated.

“I’m proud that my friend Mitch McConnell and I have been able to do that for many years, working together in good faith even though we have many political disagreements,” he added. “We could always speak with each other honestly and put the country ahead of ourselves.”

Former president Donald Trump has not issued a statement about McConnell’s announcement, though Trump previously said that McConnell “hates” him and made personal insults about McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao, who served as Trump’s transportation secretary.

“He has a death wish,” Trump wrote of McConnell in 2023. “Must immediately seek help and advise [sic] from his China-loving wife, Coco Chow [sic]!”

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans touted McConnell’s legacy in confirming three Supreme Court justices, giving the conservative wing of the court a decisive 6-3 majority.

“Mitch McConnell is one of the great lions of the United States Senate,” stated Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). “He saved the Supreme Court, preserved the rules and customs of the Senate and always protected the free-speech rights of Americans, even when it was unpopular.”

Despite pressure from former president Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, McConnell declined in 2016 to consider Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Antonin Scalia’s death.

“It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent,” McConnell said at the time.

That decision held the seat vacant for Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the vacancy following Trump’s 2016 election victory. During Trump’s term, McConnell oversaw the confirmations of Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and more than 200 lower-court judges, fundamentally shifting the balance of the judiciary.

McConnell has also been a staunch supporter of Israel, as well as one of the leading Republican advocates for U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Mitch McConnell Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

In his announcement that he would step down as leader on Wednesday, McConnell cited his support for a $95 billion Senate supplemental foreign aid package that includes $14.1 billion for Israel. McConnell also alluded to the difficulties that the bill faces with Republicans in the House.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” he said. “I have many faults, misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

“That said, I believe more strongly than ever that America’s global leadership is essential to preserving the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan discussed,” he added.

“Over the course of almost two decades as the leader of Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell has been a great supporter of Jewish Americans and the causes that are important to us,” stated Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“Senator McConnell’s accomplishments are too numerous to detail, but American Jews are especially appreciative right now for his leadership since Hamas launched its brutal attacks against Israel on Oct. 7,” added Matt Brooks, CEO of the RJC.

Like Coleman, AIPAC thanked McConnell for his longtime support for the Jewish state.

“Mitch McConnell has been an outspoken pro-Israel champion throughout his tenure as Senate Republican leader,” AIPAC stated. “We thank Leader McConnell for his tireless leadership in support of our ally and his work to strengthen and expand the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Not everyone in Washington was so effusive. The House Freedom Caucus, representing the most conservative faction of Republicans in the House, mocked McConnell for his support of the aid package for Ukraine and Israel.

“Our thoughts are with our Democrat colleagues in the Senate on the retirement of their Co-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ukraine),” the caucus wrote on social media. “No need to wait till November … Senate Republicans should immediately elect a Republican Minority Leader.”

Mitch McConnell
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Israel on Oct. 11, 2015. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

McConnell will stay on as leader until November. One Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has already announced his desire publicly to succeed McConnell as leader.

“I believe the Senate is broken. That is not news to anyone,” Cornyn said in a press statement. “The good news is that it can be fixed, and I intend to play a major role in fixing it.”

Politico reported Thursday that Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) is also considering a bid for leader and that Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) may throw his hat in the ring to make for a battle between the so-called Three Johns.

Cornyn and Thune both voted in favor of the Senate foreign aid package, while Barrasso opposed it, saying that it needed to include provisions for U.S. border security.

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