Speculation Mounts About McConnell’s Future In The US Senate

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


Mitch McConnell has led Senate Republicans for nearly 20 years, but his time in power may be running out.

McConnell, who has faced questions about his health after several “freezing” incidents, recently announced that he will step down from his role in November as the GOP Senate leader.

Now, a new column from McClatchy DC speculates that McConnell’s exit plan may be more serious than most are aware.

“Before Mitch McConnell could come to terms with his exit plan, he had to win a campaign within himself. The Senate Republican leader’s second freeze-up last August — in which he fell silent for more than 30 seconds before cameras — had both shaken his fragile mortality and steeled his headstrong resilience,” the piece begins.

“He resolved to prove to himself – and the world – he could recover to full strength. When the Kentucky Republican eventually felt good about his health at the end of November, according to a longtime adviser, it allowed McConnell to begin soberly confronting the two issues that would define his 2024: How to sunset his tenure as leader and how to close his fracture with an ascendant former – and possibly future – president,” it adds.

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“The McConnell aide insists the questions were separate – that the Kentuckian’s decision to relinquish power wasn’t related to Donald Trump’s reemergence as his party’s presidential nominee. But it’s hard to ignore the parallel tracks of the twin decisions. McConnell, now 82, began drawing up his plan of how he wanted to vacate leadership in January, nearly the same time he instructed his premier political aide, Josh Holmes, to begin a rapprochement with Trump that would lead to his endorsement eight weeks later,” the outlet added.

“I think he has signaled that the party’s leader is Donald Trump, not Mitch McConnell,” said Brian Ballard, a veteran Republican lobbyist and fundraiser in Washington. Ballard argued that McConnell is bowing out because of two factors outside his control:

Advancing age and an enduring realignment of the GOP.

“This is a generational shift Congress-wide. You’ve got the old guard, a lot of them are moving on,” said Ryan Taylor, a former Senate Republican aide to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and senior vice president at Forbes Tate Partners in Washington.

“House Democrats just went through this. It’s just Senate Republicans’ turn,” Taylor said, adding that some are openly wondering whether McConnell has rendered himself a “lame duck, surrendering the hammer of long-term consequences for increasingly defiant caucus members.”

“Does letting the tension out … is that a release valve for people or does it actually just kind of make him a bigger and bigger punching bag over the next six months where it’s harder to get anybody to really follow his lead?” asked former Capitol Hill aide Brendan Buck on his “Control” podcast.

Several influential Senate Republicans spoke to The Daily Caller about their doubts that McConnell was the best person to steer the party’s goals in the wake of the recent border bill fiasco.

“Mitch McConnell, in effect, gave the largest in-kind campaign contribution to the Democrats’ Senate campaign committee in history,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told The Daily Caller.

“Every single Democrat candidate in the country running for Senate or House will use the same talking points—they will all say: We wanted to secure the border. We tried to secure the border, but the Republicans wouldn’t let us,” Cruz said. “Now, that is a wild-eyed lie. It is completely false. This bill would have made the border crisis worse.”

Despite McConnell’s familiarity with Senate maneuvers and procedures, he has long been outside the Republican base on issues that are important to them—illegal immigration and border security being foremost among them.

“I think this is our opportunity to take him out, and we’re sort of working to figure out if that’s possible,” according to one Republican senator, granted anonymity by The Daily Caller.

“As long as I’ve been serving in the Senate, there’s never been an issue where the American public is so overwhelmingly in support of our position, which is to secure the border.

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“So how can you take — as leader — how do you take an issue where the American people support us and lead us into a box, where now, when a bill is produced, it is worse than doing nothing,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said. “When that’s rejected, we get blamed. I mean, you got to work overtime to screw that up.”

McConnell is blaming Republican senators for the development and subsequent failure of the pro-migration bill he secretly drafted with Democratic leaders.

The Kentucky Republican also made headlines when he announced that the sister of his wife, Elaine Chao, died in a recent car crash.

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