Mitch McConnell to step down as Senate GOP leader after November election

Mitch McConnell Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Mitch McConnell Samuel Corum/Getty Images
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Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be vacating his seat as Senate minority leader following the general election in November, he announced from the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon. “To serve Kentucky has been the honor of my life, to lead my Republican colleagues has been the highest privilege,” said McConnell, who turned 82 last week. “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 this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

McConnell noted that his decision came amid "a particularly difficult time for my family,” referring to the recent death of Angela Chao, the younger sister of McConnell's wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process,” McConnell said.

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

McConnell made no direct reference to this year's presidential election or to Donald Trump, who will almost certainly be the Republican nominee. He appeared to allude to intra-GOP tensions over foreign policy and the rise of the MAGA movement, however, as one factor in his decision to step down. “I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” he said. “I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them. 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.”

As noted by NBC News, McConnell is the longest-serving Senate caucus leader in history, having held his current post in the chamber in 1985. Twice during the summer of 2023, he appeared to suffer highly visible health problems, momentarily freezing up while speaking at public appearances. Those events sparked widespread concern over his age and ability to hold office.