Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican Senate leader in November

Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican Senate leader in November

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday that he will step down as Republican leader in the Senate in November.

McConnell, 82, revealed his plans in an address to the Senate, where he currently serves as minority leader.

McConnell, who is the longest-serving Senate caucus leader in history, plans to keep his seat in the chamber, which he took in 1985. His current term ends in January 2027.

“To serve Kentucky, has been the honor of my life, to lead my Republican colleagues has been the highest privilege,” McConnell said.

“But one of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter, so I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues, to say this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate,” he said.

He noted “this has been a particularly difficult time for my family,” including his wife, former Cabinet secretary Elaine Chao.

“We tragically lost Elaine’s younger sister Angela, just a few weeks ago,” McConnell said.

Chao’s sister, Foremost Group CEO Angela Chao died on Feb. 11 from an apparent drowning after her car went into a pond on a ranch outside Austin, Texas, which land records show is owned by a entity linked to the office of her husband, venture capitalist Jim Breyer.

“When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process,” McConnell said.

But he also said, “I still have enough gas in my tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics, and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm with which they have become accustomed.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following the Senate Republicans weekly policy lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2023.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

McConnell, who has served as majority leader when the GOP controlled the Senate, will leave his leadership post in the same month as the elections for president, and 33 seats in the Senate, which has 100 members.

He and former President Donald Trump, who is the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, have long had a frosty relationship.

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Trump has derisively referred to McConnell as “The Old Crow,” and McConnell reportedly seriously considered voting to convict Trump at his second impeachment trial for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

But The New York Times on Monday reported that people close to Trump and McConnell had been discussing McConnell endorsing Trump’s candidacy.

McConnell twice last summer briefly froze up and was unable to speak to reporters at news conferences. Aides had downplayed both incidents.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrati, in a statement said, “During my years in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and I rarely saw eye to eye when it came to our politics or our policy preferences.”

“But I am very proud that we both came together in the last few years to lead the Senate forward at critical moments when our country needed us, like passing the CARES Act in the early days of the COVID pandemic, finishing our work to certify the election on January 6th, and more recently working together to fund the fight for Ukraine,” Schumer said. 

“I know it’s been a difficult year for him and his family and I wish them the very best.” 

President Joe Biden, who served for more than two decades in the Senate with McConnell, in a statement, said, “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.”

“During his many years of leadership, we could always speak with each other honestly and put the country ahead of ourselves,” Biden said. “Mitch has lived the American dream, overcoming polio and going on to become the longest-serving Senate leader in American history. Jill and I wish the best to Mitch and Elaine.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Sen. Mitch McConnell.

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