What we know about McConnell stepping down as GOP leader: End of term, who could replace him

Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, announced he will step down from the role on Wednesday but serve the remainder of his term.

Speaking from the Senate floor, he announced he would serve as leader until November.

“As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said in his remarks. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.”

Here’s what we know so far.

What did he say about why he’s stepping down?

McConnell, 82, said the recent death of his wife’s sister, Angela Chao, caused him to reevaluate and reflect on his time in office.

“To serve Kentucky in the Senate has been the honor of my life,” McConnell said. “To lead my Republican colleagues has been my highest privilege. But one of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter. So, I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues, to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

Despite stepping down, McConnell said he is “not going anywhere anytime soon.”

“I still have enough gas in the tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm which they have become accustomed,” he said.

Is he leaving office or retiring?

While he is stepping down as Senate leader in November, McConnell said he intends to serve through the end of his term as senator and does not plan to retire early.

“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, however,” McConnell said. “I will complete the job my colleagues have given me until we select a new Leader in November and they take the helm next January. I will finish the job the people of Kentucky hired me to do as well — albeit from a different seat in the chamber. I am looking forward to that.”

When does his current term end?

McConnell’s current term as senator ends in January 2027, leaving him with just under three years in office remaining.

How long has he been in office?

McConnell has been a senator representing Kentucky since 1984. He is the longest-serving U.S. Senate leader in history, and the longest-serving senator from Kentucky.

He became the party leader in 2006, going on to win nine straight elections.

McConnell to step down as Senate leader: Here’s a look at his 50 years in politics

Are his recent health problems a factor in stepping down?

McConnell aides said his announcement was unrelated to his health, the Associated Press reported.

The senator was admitted to the hospital after getting a concussion from a fall last year. He twice in 2023 froze at press conferences for more than 30 seconds.

Who could replace McConnell in his role?

Majority and minority leaders are elected by their own parties to represent them and serve as the party spokesperson.

Several names have emerged as options for the next minority leader, including:

  • John Cornyn, senator from Texas

  • John Thune, senator from South Dakota

  • John Barrasso, senator from Wyoming.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks off the Senate floor after speaking, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 at the Capitol in Washington. McConnell says he’ll step down as Senate Republican leader in November. The 82-year-old Kentucky lawmaker is the longest-serving Senate leader in history. He’s maintained his power in the face of dramatic changes in the Republican Party. He’s set to make the announcement Wednesday McConnell on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)