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US: Senator Mitch McConnell to leave top Republican post

February 28, 2024

Mitch McConnell has said he intends to leave his post as the Senate's top Republican after leading the party in the upper house of US Congress for nearly 17 years.

Senator Mitch McConnell
McConnell said he will serve out the end of his term, which expires in 2027Image: BONNIE CASH/UPI/IMAGO

The longest-serving party leader in the history of the US Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell, said he would hand in his leadership post in November but serve out his term, which expires in 2027.

"I turned 82 last week. The end of my contributions are closer than I prefer," he said in the Senate. "Father Time remains undefeated. I'm no longer the young man sitting in the back hoping colleagues remember my name. It's time for the next generation of leadership."

The announcement surprised many in the Senate and prompted a standing ovation from members of both parties. McConnell currently serves as Senate minority leader as Democrats hold a slim majority in the chamber.

McConnell went largely unchallenged as the leader of Republicans in the Senate since 2015, and he was instrumental in the party's battle to stop the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama from 2009-2017.

Twice last summer, McConnell froze up during public remarks, raising questions about his ability to perform his job despite a note from the congressional physician clearing McConnell to continue working. Aides said his decision to give up the leadership position was unrelated to his health.

McConnell to step down as Republican Senate leader

Nearly 2 decades at the top of the Republican Party

During his time in the Senate, McConnell has seen the Republican Party move from Ronald Reagan's traditional conservatism and international alliances to the isolationist populism of Donald Trump.

McConnell was a key Trump supporter in January 2017 and critical in the Republican Party's efforts to form a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court after denying a hearing for months to a nominee put forth for an open seat by Obama. McConnell and Trump would, however, later fall out in December 2020 over the former president's lies of having won the 2020 election.

McConnell voted to acquit Trump of having incited an insurrection but called him "practically and morally responsible" for the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.

"American citizens attacked their own government," McConnell said at the time. "They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he'd lost an election."

"I think the Trump chapter reopening is his cue to exit stage left," a former high-ranking Senate Republican aide told Reutes news agency when asked about the timing of McConnell's move.

Senators John Thune, currently the second-highest ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn and John Barrasso were expected to contend for McConnell's job.

Mitch McConnell on Conflict Zone Special

sms/dh (AP. Reuters, AFP, DPA)