McConnell Stepping Down From Senate Leadership

( – Last year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stood before media cameras and froze — twice. The image of one of the most powerful men in American history losing his ability to speak and staring blankly at the television cameras was startling. Soon after, calls for him to resign grew louder. Former President Donald Trump has been one of McConnell’s most vocal critics. Now, he has answered those calls to step aside.

Senate Leader Retires

On February 28, McConnell stood on the Senate floor and announced he would be stepping down as leader of the Republican caucus in November. In an emotional speech, he said the party will pick a new leader that month, and they will begin their reign in 2025.

McConnell was elected to lead Senate Republicans in 2007. He is the longest-serving leader in the chamber’s history and the longest-serving senator to serve Kentucky. He said that when he won his Senate election in 1984, he “never could have imagined” he would serve his state for so long, calling it the “honor of [his] life.”

The Republican, who turned 82 a week before his announcement, said he would finish the job Kentucky sent him there to do but would not be running for reelection in 2026.

McConnell’s Legacy

The Kentucky senator is inarguably one of the most effective leaders in the history of Congress. He was able to hold his party together during former President Barack Obama’s tenure and stop the Democrat from passing many of his policy priorities. While he failed to make Obama a one-term president, as he promised, he succeeded in shifting the power of the Supreme Court.

In February 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died. Obama selected Merrick Garland, the current attorney general, to serve on the court, but McConnell stood in his way. Republicans refused to even hold hearings, saying it was too close to the next presidential election. When Trump took office, he replaced Scalia with Neil Gorsuch with McConnell’s help. Together, they sat two more justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter was seated within weeks of the 2020 election.

The shift on the court gave Republicans their biggest victory in 50 years: the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Federal abortion rights were stripped and conservative states moved to ban abortion, something the Right had been trying to do since the precedent was set.

While McConnell’s influence over the last couple of years has decreased, his impact on American democracy will remain for decades to come.

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