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Why Is Mitch McConnell Remaining in the Senate Until 2027?

State of the Union: The case that departing Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell should step aside from the Senate entirely.

Senators Meet For Policy Luncheons On Capitol Hill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced he will be stepping down from his perch atop the Senate GOP after what will be the longest tenure as a leader in Senate history.

“One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” McConnell wrote in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. “So I stand before you today ... to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

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Some Senate Republicans have given conciliatory responses to McConnell’s departure. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate GOP number two, said, “[McConnell] leaves really big shoes to fill .. We’ll give you more insight into what we’re thinking. Kind of wanna just today honor him.” Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said, “[the leadership] election is nine months away, and there's a much more important election between now and then. And that's the election we need to take the presidency and the Senate and the House and that's where my focus is.” Thune and Barrasso are two of the three Johns (Senator John Cornyn of Texas is the third) expected to launch bids to replace McConnell.

Meanwhile, Senator Rick Scott of Florida released a statement suggesting McConnell’s departure offers a big opportunity for the Senate GOP. “I have been very clear and have long believed that we need new leadership in the Senate that represents our voters and the issues we were sent here to fight for. As everyone knows, I challenged Leader McConnell last year. This is an opportunity to refocus our efforts on solving the significant challenges facing our country and actually reflect the aspirations of voters,” Scott said.

After news broke, McConnell took to the Senate floor and said, "I still have enough gas in my tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm with which they've become accustomed.”

Surely McConnell does have the capacity to “thoroughly disappoint” his conservative critics in his time as a lame duck. While Thune and Barrasso want to give the conference the space and time to appreciate the man who has been cutting off his own members at the knees, a push for McConnell to exit his role immediately after this round of shutdown negotiations comes to an end is warranted.

As the late Senator John McCain sided with Democrats on almost every important issue on his way out the door, McConnell may have just unencumbered himself from even pretending to answer to any of his conference’s demands. Even before he announced his resignation, McConnell reportedly told House Speaker Mike Johnson at the White House that the biggest thing on Johnson’s plate is Ukraine aid and not the looming government shutdown—the purpose the two GOP leaders were summoned to the White House in the first place.

As Senator Ron Johnson told The American Conservative in a phone call yesterday, “I cannot tell you how often he reminds us how many hundreds of millions of dollars he raised for the Senate Leadership Fund last cycle, and how much he's raised this cycle.” At Senate luncheons during the border negotiations, McConnell would suggestively make remarks about campaign fundraising before turning the floor to Senator James Lankford. Because McConnell is staying until November, he’ll still have control of at least some of the purse strings. And while McConnell might boast about the way he raised money for the 2022 cycle, the way he spent it shut the door on the GOP’s chances to take back the majority.

“[McConnell is] not about governing. He's not about getting a result. He's not about fighting for conservative principles or pushing back on the radical leftism destroying this country,” Johnson told TAC yesterday. “He is about being majority leader.”

Now McConnell is no longer about being majority leader, what will he be about in the eight months before he steps down?

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