Public Service

Mitch McConnell to step down as top Senate Republican at the end of this Congress

Mitch McConnel­l’s run atop the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus will soon be over.

The eighty-two year-old Ken­tuck­ian announced today in a speech on the Sen­ate floor that he will hand off lead­er­ship of the cau­cus to some­body else (like John Cornyn or John Thune) at the end of this Con­gress and become a back­bencher for the remain­der of his cur­rent term end­ing in 2027. Thus, even if Sen­ate Repub­li­cans win a major­i­ty this autumn, McConnell won’t be major­i­ty leader again.

“As Eccle­si­astes tells us, ‘To every­thing there is a sea­son, and a time to every pur­pose under Heav­en.’ To serve Ken­tucky in the Sen­ate has been the hon­or of my life. To lead my Repub­li­can col­leagues has been my high­est priv­i­lege,” said McConnell in floor remarks. “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 that this will be my last term as Repub­li­can leader of the Sen­ate. I’m not going any­where any­time soon, how­ev­er. I will com­plete the job my col­leagues have giv­en me until we select a new Leader in Novem­ber and they take the helm next January.”

“I will fin­ish the job the peo­ple of Ken­tucky hired me to do as well — albeit from a dif­fer­ent seat in the cham­ber,” McConnell con­tin­ued “I am look­ing for­ward to that. So it’s time for me to think about anoth­er sea­son. 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.”

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, ever the gra­cious states­man, issued a state­ment con­grat­u­lat­ing McConnell and wish­ing him well.

“Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy is based on elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives com­ing togeth­er and bridg­ing their dif­fer­ent points of view to find com­mon ground on behalf of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” the Pres­i­dent 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. Amer­i­ca is now being rebuilt by the biggest infra­struc­ture law in near­ly sev­en­ty years. We’re mak­ing crit­i­cal invest­ments so our econ­o­my can out­com­pete Chi­na. We’re stand­ing up for our val­ues and our most urgent nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the world because of it. Amer­i­ca is mak­ing tremen­dous strides towards cur­ing cancer.”

“There is noth­ing Amer­i­ca can­not do when we do it togeth­er. 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.”

The Pres­i­dent is right that McConnell worked with Democ­rats over the years to pass a num­ber of huge­ly impor­tant laws, includ­ing the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act and CHIPS and Sci­ence. McConnell has also sup­port­ed finan­cial assis­tance for Ukraine as its fights for its very survival.

But on the oth­er side of the ledger, McConnell has also caused a tremen­dous, appalling amount of dam­age to this coun­try. The list of good and nec­es­sary bills that McConnell fil­i­bus­tered while in the minor­i­ty could fill a book. It is thanks to McConnell and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans that the Sen­ate has failed to act on vot­ing rights, repro­duc­tive rights, cli­mate, hous­ing, edu­ca­tion, and so much more.

McConnell is also the per­son pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for the right wing’s pack­ing of the Supreme Court. He infa­mous­ly refused to hold a vote on Mer­rick Gar­land’s nom­i­na­tion in 2016, then turned around just four years lat­er and made sure Trump’s pick Amy Coney Bar­rett got installed on the Court against Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg’s wish­es and against the prece­dent that he him­self had set.

Absurd­ly, McConnell sided with Trump in both of Trump’s impeach­ment tri­als, and that fact should be point­ed out every sin­gle time that Trump and McConnel­l’s rela­tion­ship is dis­cussed. Thanks to McConnel­l’s feck­less­ness, Trump remains in con­trol of the Repub­li­can Par­ty and will like­ly be renom­i­nat­ed for the pres­i­den­cy this sum­mer. McConnell could have avert­ed that by vot­ing to con­vict Trump and bring­ing nine oth­er Repub­li­cans along with him. He refused.

McConnell cru­el­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in efforts to repeal the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act, which would have deprived mil­lions of Amer­i­cans of their health­care. McConnell very near­ly suc­ceed­ed in deliv­er­ing a repeal bill to Trump, but was thwart­ed by the late Sen­a­tor John McCain of Arizona.

McConnell has also played a key role in efforts to unleash dark mon­ey in Amer­i­can elec­tions. He’s so well known for this that it’s men­tioned in the third para­graph of his Wikipedia entry: “He led oppo­si­tion to stricter cam­paign finance laws, cul­mi­nat­ing in the U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing Cit­i­zens Unit­ed v. FEC that par­tial­ly over­turned the Bipar­ti­san Cam­paign Reform Act (McCain-Fein­gold) in 2010.”

On bal­ance, McConnell has been a huge­ly neg­a­tive force in this coun­try. It may be cus­tom­ary to extend well wish­es to some­one when they announce their retire­ment, but in our view, it’s also an appro­pri­ate junc­ture to rec­og­nize the harm and dam­age that an irre­spon­si­ble and immoral pub­lic ser­vant has caused.

Five reads about Mitch McConnell’s retirement

The Sen­ate Repub­li­cans will wait until after the ini­tial results of the Novem­ber 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion are avail­able before pick­ing McConnel­l’s successor.

Andrew Villeneuve

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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