McConnell To Step Down From Senate Leadership

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that he would be stepping down from his longtime leadership role in the chamber later this year. The unexpected announcement has already started a jockeying for position, especially if Republicans are able to win the majority in the chamber later this year.

McConnell cited his current age of 82 in announcing that he would be stepping down as the Senate’s Republican Party leader. He cited a 1984 comment by former President Ronald Reagan, who accidentally called him “Mitch O’Donnell.”

“If you would have told me forty years later that I would stand before you as the longest serving Senate leader in US history, frankly I would’ve thought you lost your mind,” he said.

McConnell received praise from some Republican members of Congress. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) cited McConnell’s rise from “humble beginnings,” including beating polio as a young man. Johnson called him “one of the most consequential Senate Leaders in history. He started his Senate career as a legislative aide and ended up in charge of the upper chamber.”

“No Member of Congress has played a greater role in reshaping the federal judiciary than Mitch. I join my colleagues in saluting his historic contributions to the Republican Party and to the Congress. His legacy will endure for generations,” he said.

McConnell’s decision came after concerns about his health. Twice in the last year, the senator froze up during public statements. Furthermore, there has been talk of a potential leadership challenge against him.

The senator did not reference a potential successor, although there has been talk of who could take the current position.

The second-ranked Republican in the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) recently endorsed former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.

Also in contention is Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has also been cited as a potential Republican Senate leader. Scott challenged McConnell for the position last year.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) celebrated McConnell’s departure, while Donald Trump Jr. called for McConnell to be replaced with a populist such as Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH). The former president’s son said that he would support “people who are willing to actually call out sort of ‘the club.'”