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Mitch McConnell Announces Resignation from Senate Leadership

Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, announced Wednesday he will be stepping down as Senate Republican Leader in November, leaving a massive hole in leadership for the first time in 17 years.

“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,” McConnell said, adding in his address that he had “total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work.”

The 82-year-old Kentucky Republican is the longest-serving party leader in the history of the Senate, having been in the post since 2007.McConnell says he will see out the rest of his term until 2026.

McConnell is regarded by Republican and some Democratic colleagues as an effective political tactician and one of the most influential lawmakers in Washington. Alongside former President Donald Trump, McConnell helped enact a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax package in 2017 that slashed corporate rates, provided new breaks for private businesses and reorganized the individual tax code.

McConnell’s most impactful moment of his tenure as Leader came under then-President Barack Obama, denying him the ability to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, because it was too close to the 2016 election despite the seat opening in early February. He went on to approve three conservative Supreme Court nominees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — through the Senate under Trump’s presidency, creating the most right-leaning court in nearly a century and reshaping American law. The court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, ending the national right to abortion, among many other major decisions.

More recently McConnell’s power within the party had diminished as the party has sided further with Trump. Trump and McConnell have been on rocky terms since January 6th. More recently, Trump questioned his ability to work with McConnell if re-elected to the Presidency in 2024.

Health concerns more than likely played a role in McConnell’s decision. In March of last year, McConnell sustained a concussion and fractured a rib when he took a fall at a private dinner at a Washington hotel, sidelining him for six weeks.

Later in July, McConnell froze for 19 seconds at a news conference in the Capitol, worrying colleagues who said they had noticed a change in the longtime leader and believed the fall had played a role. He appeared to freeze a second time at a Kentucky event the following month.

More recently, he lost his sister-in-law in a car accident, prompting what McConnell described as “a certain introspection”.

President Biden said that he was sorry to hear that McConnell is stepping down and praised him for his honesty.
“I’m sorry to hear McConnell stepped down… I’ve trusted him, and we have a great relationship. We fight like hell. But he has never, never, never misrepresented anything. I’m sorry to hear he’s stepping down,” Biden said of his former longtime colleague in the Senate.

Several Republican colleagues praised McConnell for recognizing it was time to pass the torch to a younger generation of leaders.

“He’s 82 years old and decided it’s time to pass the baton to the next generation. That’s something that I’ve been saying for a long time. I made the decision myself even though I’m a spry 76,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a long-term ally who announced that he was not seeking reelection last year.

Not everyone was sad to see McConnell call it quits. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., noted that he called on McConnell to step aside as leader more than a year ago and voted against him as leader this Congress. “So this is a good development. My question is: Why wait so long?” Hawley said. “I mean, November’s a long time away. We have a lot to achieve between now and then. We need new leadership now. It’s my view, but this is better than nothing.”

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