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McConnell to step down. Good for him!

I've disagreed with his views on many issues, but he deserves kudos for having the good sense to step down. I mean no disrespect to our Geriatric in Chief.

Sen. Mitch McConnell will step down as Republican leader in November

By Josh Christenson, NY Post

Published Feb. 28, 2024

Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, and one of the most powerful, announced Wednesday he will step down from that position after the November elections — and suggested he may retire at the end of his current term in 2027 to hand off to “the next generation of leadership.”

“I turned 82 last week, and the end of my contributions are closer than I prefer,” a visibly emotional McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor. “I’m filled with heartfelt gratitude and humility for the opportunity.”

“When I got here, I was just happy if anybody remembered my name,” added McConnell, apparently referencing a flub by Ronald Reagan during a 1984 visit to Kentucky, during which the Gipper 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,” the minority leader went on.

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

Mitch McConnell walking in a suit and tie towards his office in Washington DC, after announcing he will step down as Senate Republican Leader.

Mitch McConnell’s service to Republicans and the nation deserves all Americans’ thanks

McConnell’s decision to step away from leadership punctuates a powerful ideological transition underway in the Republican Party, from Reagan’s brand of traditional conservatism and strong international alliances to the fiery, often isolationist populism of former President Donald Trump.

The octogenarian faced down brief and unsuccessful challenges to his leadership position, most notably by Florida Sen. Rick Scott last year, and struggled to weather recent turmoil over spending packages with military aid for Ukraine that split the Republican conference.

“Nearly every Republican Senator under the age of 55 voted NO on this America Last bill,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said on X after a funding measure with Ukraine aid sans border provisions passed the Senate earlier this month.

“15 out of 17 elected since 2018 voted NO,” he noted. “Things are changing just not fast enough.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) would be next in line for the leadership position, followed by conference chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is seen as a potential uniter of factions within the GOP caucus.

“Barrasso is a good medium: he knows how to wrangle the Senate being in leadership, pull the Trump line when necessary and is fiscally conservative — which is appealing in a time where Americans are struggling under the failure of Bidenomics,” one Republican aide told The Post.

The aide added, however, that Scott could make “another run for the hard right of the caucus” and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) may also make a bid.

“Whoever it is,” a second GOP aide said, “we will be working hard to extract lots of guarantees and concessions for conservatives from them.”

McConnell is also the lone remaining member of Republican congressional leadership to not endorse Trump’s 2024 White House bid.

While McConnell boosted Trump’s first-term legacy by helping steer all three of his Supreme Court nominations through Senate confirmation, the two have been estranged since the minority leader refuted Trump’s claim that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

Following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, McConnell assigned blame and responsibility to Trump and said that he should be held to account through the criminal justice system for his actions.

McConnell’s critics insist he could have done more, including voting to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial. McConnell did not, arguing that since Trump was no longer in office, he could not be subject to impeachment.

Ahead of last Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Donald Trump Jr. told reporters he anticipated McConnell being replaced as Senate GOP leader in the near future in favor of “guys like a [populist] J.D. Vance [of Ohio], people who are willing to actually call out sort of ‘the club.'”

Aides said McConnell’s announcement was unrelated to his health. The Kentucky senator had a concussion from a fall last year and two public episodes where his face briefly froze while he was speaking.

Instead, McConnell cited the recent death of his wife’s youngest sister as a moment that prompted introspection.

“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. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.”

While McConnell’s critics within the GOP conference had grown louder, their numbers had not grown appreciably larger, a marker of McConnell’s strategic and tactical skill and his ability to understand the needs of his fellow Republican senators.

McConnell endorsed Reagan’s view of America’s role in the world and the senator has persisted in the face of opposition, including from Trump, that Congress should include a foreign assistance package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine.

Jefferson County Judge Mitch McConnell declares his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate during a press conference in Covington, Kentucky, Jan. 17, 1984.

“I am unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world,” McConnell said.

Against long odds, he managed to secure 22 Republican votes for the package now being considered by the House.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them,” McConnell said. “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. For as long as I am drawing breath on this earth I will defend American exceptionalism.”

McConnell succeeded Bill Frist of Tennessee as leader of the Republican conference in January 2007 and has won all eight elections since.

He cultivated his power base through a combination of care and nurturing of his members, including understanding their political imperatives. After seeing the potential peril of a rising Tea Party, he also established a super political action committee, The Senate Leadership Fund, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Republican candidates.

“I love the Senate,” McConnell said in his speech.

“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, he 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.”

There would be a time to reminisce, McConnell vowed, but not today.

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

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