Longest serving US Senate leader MITCH McCONNELL to step down

Friday, March 01, 2024
 – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step down as GOP leader in November, the Kentucky Republican announced on the Senate floor Wednesday, marking the end of an era on Capitol Hill and setting up a high-stakes race for his successor.

He will continue to serve in the US Senate but will allow “the next generation of leadership” to take the helm of the Senate Republican Conference.

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, has been in the US Senate since 1985.

He said on Wednesday February 28 that “the end of my contributions are closer than I prefer.”

McConnell has made history over the course of his political tenure and in 2023, McConnell became the longest-serving Senate party leader in history.

Recently, McConnell has found in himself at odds with members of his conference particularly over the issue of additional US funding for the war in Ukraine.

He also has a strained relationship with the Republican Party’s front-runner for the presidential nomination: Donald Trump with reports that the pair hadn't spoken in more than three years.

“As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said in his floor remarks. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. That day arrived today.”

He received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, approached him afterwards to shake his hand.

While serving as Senate majority leader during former President Donald Trump’s time in office, McConnell helped guide three Trump-nominated Supreme Court justices to confirmation — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — as well as the confirmations of a vast number of conservative judges to the federal bench, transforming the federal judiciary in the process.

After a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential win, McConnell blamed Trump for provoking the attack, but still voted to acquit him of inciting an insurrection after the House moved to impeach.

He also led the Senate’s certification of the presidential election that the rioters pledged to overturn, and strongly condemned the violence at the Capitol.

McConnell has suffered a string of high-profile health incidents over the past year.

In March, he was treated for a concussion after a fall at a hotel in Washington, DC.

Months later, McConnell experienced episodes where he briefly appeared to freeze up on two separate occasions while speaking with reporters, incidents that sparked questions and concern over the Kentucky Republican’s health and fitness to lead the Senate Republican conference.

McConnell on Wednesday said his decision to step down came following the death of his wife Elaine Chao’s youngest sister, Angela, in a traffic accident earlier this month.

“As some of you may know, this has been a particularly difficult time for my family. We tragically lost Elaine’s younger sister, Angela, just a few weeks ago. When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process. Perhaps it is God’s way of reminding you of your own life’s journey to reprioritize the impact of the world that we will all inevitably leave behind,” he said.

He thanked his wife of 31 years, calling her the “love of my life” and that “I’m eternally grateful to have her by my side.”

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