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John Cornyn becomes first Republican to announce bid to replace McConnell

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas has thrown his hat into the ring to replace departing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, becoming the first member of his party to do so.

Mr Cornyn, a close ally of the minority leader, released a statement announcing his candidacy in which he pledged to end “backroom deals” and give members adequate time to read legislation before it is voted upon.

“I believe the Senate is broken - that is not news to anyone. The good news is that it can be fixed, and I intend to play a major role in fixing it,” said the Texas Republican on Thursday.

He is far from the only candidate expected to mount a bid. Others including members of leadership such as John Thune, Joni Ernst and John Barrasso are expected to consider running for the top spot as well.

There’s also the possibility of a candidate backed by Donald Trump, such as Rick Scott. The Florida Republican previously challenged Mr McConnell for control of the Senate GOP caucus in 2022.

Mr Cornyn is known as being supportive of bipartisan compromise in the Senate while also being a fierce advocate for Republicans. He previously led the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, where he helped engineer key victories for his party and raised millions for his colleagues. Like many of his colleagues, he has endorsed Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential race, though doing so only after the former president established a clear frontrunner status with victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The election of the next Senate Republican leader is likely to be a test of former President Donald Trump’s influence in the Senate Republican caucus, which has long been an obstacle to his total control of the Republican Party. The obstinance of the Senate GOP caucus — at least its leadership, under Mr McConnell — contrasts sharply with that of their colleagues in the House, who under Speaker Mike Johnson largely follow the whims and wishes of the former president.

Mr Trump’s relationship with the outgoing Senate Republican leader has been fraught for years, though it came to a head in late 2020 and early 2021 when Mr McConnell refused to back his false claims about the presidential election and later whipped his caucus against voting to interfere with the certification of the president’s defeat. Under his presidency and Mr McConnell’s leadership of the Senate, however, the GOP did see three conservative Supreme Court justices confirmed to the bench and major tax legislation pass.

One of the Kentucky senator’s defining moments as Senate leader came in 2018 when the long-awaited Republican bid to repeal Obamacare narrowly failed in the upper chamber despite its Republican majority.

Mr Cornyn, who like most of his GOP colleagues voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, would later go on to awkwardly praise it during the Covid-19 pandemic.