Mitch McConnell to step down as Senate Republican leader in November

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Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in US history who has played a pivotal role in Washington for decades, will step down from his post as the Republican minority leader in November.

McConnell announced his decision to resign from Senate leadership in a speech on the chamber’s floor on Wednesday. He said he would remain in Congress to serve out the rest of his term as the senior senator from Kentucky, until early 2027.

“One of life’s most under-appreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” he said. “So I stand before you today . . . to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, has long been seen as a shrewd legislator who for decades commanded the unwavering support of his allies. But McConnell’s grip on Republican senators has loosened amid the rise of Donald Trump and his more populist brand of GOP politics.

The relationship between McConnell and Trump has soured in recent years, and the Kentucky senator is one of the few senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill who has yet to endorse the former president’s latest bid for the White House.

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, has also faced repeated questions about his health and fitness for office after suffering a serious fall last year that sent him to hospital and resulted in a lengthy absence from Capitol Hill. He then appeared to freeze in two separate incidents speaking to reporters in the halls of Congress and in his home state of Kentucky.

His office later shared a letter from the attending physician for Congress saying the Senate minority leader was “medically clear to continue with his schedule”.

McConnell made no mention of his health in his speech, but said it was “time for the next generation of leadership”.

The Senate minority leader nodded to divisions within the Republican ranks, including on matters of foreign policy. McConnell has been among the most vocal party advocates for the US providing more aid to Ukraine, despite opposition from many colleagues.

“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 on Wednesday. “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.”

McConnell and Trump worked together on several big pieces of legislation, as well as the confirmations of three Supreme Court justices, during the former president’s time in the White House.

But their relationship broke down after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, which prompted McConnell’s wife, then US secretary of transportation Elaine Chao, to resign from Trump’s cabinet. McConnell called Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the attack.

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