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McConnell Announces He’s Relinquishes GOP Leadership

Senator Mitch McConnell

Senator Mitch McConnell, the longtime top Senate Republican from Kentucky, announced on Wednesday his decision to step down as the leader of the Senate GOP following the November elections. 

The move officially coronates the twice-impeached and four-times indicted former President Donald Trump, the GOP’s unquestioned leader.

McConnell, an 82-year-old political stalwart, acknowledged that his Reaganite national security views no longer aligned with the trajectory of a party now firmly under Trump’s influence. 

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them,” McConnell said in a somber speech on the Senate floor.

The decision comes in the wake of McConnell’s health challenges, including a severe fall last year and episodes of momentary freezing in front of the media. The 36-year Senate veteran faced growing dissent within his party for his push to provide continued military assistance to Ukraine and his leadership style, characterized by a close-to-the-vest approach.

The discord between McConnell and Trump, whom McConnell blamed for the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol despite orchestrating his acquittal in an impeachment trial, underlined the profound ideological transition occurring within the Republican Party. The change denotes a departure from Ronald Reagan’s traditional conservatism and solid international alliances in favor of the ferocious and frequently isolationist populism that Trump promoted.

McConnell, emotional at times during his speech, said he intends to serve out his Senate term until January 2027, albeit “from a different seat in the chamber.” The announcement drew a poignant scene, with dozens of McConnell’s staff lining up behind him, some wiping away tears, while family and friends observed from the gallery. Senators from both parties, mostly taken by surprise, exchanged hugs and handshakes in a display of bipartisan acknowledgment.

“I’ve trusted him, and we have a great relationship,” President Joe Biden said. “We fight like hell. But he has never, never, never misrepresented anything.” 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also released a statement, noting, “During my years in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and I rarely saw eye to eye when it came to our politics or our policy preferences. But I am very proud that we both came together in the last few years to lead the Senate forward at critical moments when our country needed us.”

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