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Sen. Mitch McConnell to step down as Senate GOP leader after 17 year-run

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addresses the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Arena in Cleveland^ Ohio. July 19^ 2016.

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Senate GOP leader in November. McConnell said he plans to serve out his Senate term, which ends in January 2027, “from a different seat in the chamber.”

McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, announced his decision Wednesday with prepared remarks which began: “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 … to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

McConnell’s announcement is said to be unrelated to his health — he had a concussion from a fall last year, and two public episodes where his face briefly froze while he was speaking. Despite the concerns about his health, colleagues have said in recent months that they believe he has recovered and that McConnell was not impaired cognitively, but did have some additional physical limitations. McConnell said in his prepared remarks: “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. A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.” McConnell gave no specific reason for the timing of his decision, but cited the recent death of his wife’s youngest sister as prompting the decision: “The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer.”   He added:“I love the Senate. It has been my life. There may be more distinguished members of this body throughout our history, but I doubt there are any with more admiration for it,” but added, “Father Time remains undefeated. I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership. I still have enough gas in the tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm which they have become accustomed.”

The Kentucky senator had been under increasing pressure from the wing of his party that has aligned firmly with former President Donald Trump. McConnell and Trump have been estranged since December 2020, when McConnell refused to abide Trump’s assertion that the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president was the product of fraud. After the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, McConnell assigned blame and responsibility to Trump and said that he should be held to account through the criminal justice system for his actions.

Editorial credit: mark reinstein /

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