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Mitch McConnell, 82, to Step Down as Republican Senate Leader After Reaching Historic Milestone

The Kentucky senator broke the record for the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, now telling Congress "it's time to move on to life's next chapter"

<p>Drew Angerer/Getty</p>

Drew Angerer/Getty

Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate's longest-serving party leader, announced on Wednesday that he will vacate his leadership position in November.

The Kentucky senator, 82, has been at the helm of the Senate Republican Conference since 2007, but in recent years, several members of his conference have demanded that he make way for a younger, more Trump-aligned leader.

“One of life’s most under-appreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” he said in prepared remarks on Wednesday. “So I stand before you today ... to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

Related: Trump Calls for New GOP Senate Leadership, Suggests Replacement for Mitch McConnell

Though he will no longer be in Senate leadership, he plans to remain in Congress through the remainder of his term, which expires in 2027.

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell was first elected to represent Kentucky in the Senate in 1984, when he ousted an incumbent Democrat and flipped the seat red. He secured a seventh term in office in the 2020 election.

“I have the honor of representing Kentucky in the Senate longer than anyone else in our history," McConnell said during his speech on Wednesday. “I just never could have imagined that happening when I arrived here in 1984. I am filled with heartfelt gratitude and humility for the opportunity."

Related: Angela Chao, Business Executive and Sister-in-Law of Mitch McConnell, Dead in Car Accident at Age 50

<p>Drew Angerer/Getty</p>

Drew Angerer/Getty

The senator cited the recent death of his sister-in-law, Angela Chao, as a partial catalyst for his decision to step back.

“As some of you may know, this has been a particularly difficult time for my family," McConnell said. "When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there is a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process. Perhaps it is God’s way of reminding you of your own life’s journey to reprioritize the impact on the world that we will all inevitably leave behind."

“I turned 82 last week. The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer," he continued. "I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership."

Related: Mitch McConnell Says U.S. Capitol Mob Was 'Provoked' by Donald Trump and Were 'Fed Lies'

<p>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</p> Mitch McConnell's Senate colleague steps in after he freezes during a news conference on July 26, 2023

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mitch McConnell's Senate colleague steps in after he freezes during a news conference on July 26, 2023

According to the Associated Press, aides asserted that McConnell's resignation as leader is unrelated to his health — a topic that repeatedly made headlines in the past year.

In March 2023, McConnell spent nearly five days in the hospital after falling at a Washington, D.C. event. He suffered a minor rib fracture and a concussion, according to a spokesperson, causing him to remain hospitalized for "observation and treatment."

He returned to the Capitol following his treatment and remained relatively under the radar until late July, when he caught the attention of media outlets worldwide after he froze mid-sentence during a press conference, staring blankly ahead for nearly 20 seconds.

His GOP colleagues ultimately ushered him away from the podium, and McConnell returned a short time later to answer questions from reporters, assuring that he was "fine."

Related: Mitch McConnell Says He's 'Fine' After Freezing Mid-Press Conference, Being Ushered Away

The July incident immediately sparked calls for his retirement, even among fellow Republicans, as Americans became concerned that he would be unable to see his term through.

Then, in August, criticism grew louder after a similar situation unfolded during a press conference in Kentucky. In the August incident, he froze on camera after a reporter asked about whether he planned to seek another term in 2026, when he would be up for reelection. An aide repeated the question to him as he stared forward, then guided him off stage.

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A 2023 Morning Consult poll conducted before his public health episodes revealed McConnell to be the least popular U.S. senator, with a 64% disapproval rating.

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