Ailing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell Tweeted Thursday that he will be returning to the Senate following reports that he was planning to retire.
McConnell, 81, has been out of the public eye since a serious fall hospitalized him in March, and several prominent Republicans have been making noises about holding leadership vote to replace him, according to the Spectator.
Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota have reportedly been reaching out to conservative senators to prepare the anticipated vote after McConnell announces his retirement.
According to one source, “Cornyn has been particularly active in his preparations, taking fellow senators with whom he has little in common to lunch in attempts to court them,” the Spectator reported.
Requests are being targeted at a plethora of conservative senators, including the sixteen who voted to delay the leadership election earlier this year, a proxy for opposition to McConnell’s leadership. Rick Scott, the Florida senator and former NRSC head who challenged McConnell, ultimately received ten protest votes. These members could prove key to determining the next Republican leader. Queries are also being made internally about the rules regarding replacement, and how the contest would be structured given the lack of an obvious heir apparent.
McConnell fell during a dinner event for the Senate Leadership Fund in Washington, DC. He was treated for a concussion at a hospital and has been recovering at home amid rumors that may not be able to return to the Senate.
At the same time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has missed votes due to a bout with shingles, and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.) has been out since February 15 due to clinical depression.
Feinstein is facing calls to retire amid growing concerns about her age and mental capacity. DiFi has reportedly missed 60 of 82 Senate votes taken so far this year. The top contender for her replacement is Rep. Katie Porter, an “ill-tempered” California congresswoman who was accused in divorce papers of dumping boiling potatoes on her husband’s head, and using “abusive language” toward him, her staff, and even her own toddler, according to the Daily Mail.
Fetterman is due to return to the Senate next week and will chair a hearing on food stamps. “We’ll be talking about protecting SNAP, fighting for PA’s farmers in the Farm Bill, and much more. Hope you’ll tune in,” he said in a tweet.
McConnell has been the top Republican in the Senate for sixteen years—the longest serving Senate Party Leader in history. He has been criticized as an establishment Republican hostile to the conservative/populist base, and praised for his skill in the judicial nomination fights.
Following reports of is anticipated departure Thursday, McConnell insisted that he is going nowhere.
“I am looking forward to returning to the Senate on Monday,” he tweeted. “We’ve got important business to tackle and big fights to win for Kentuckians and the American people.”
I am looking forward to returning to the Senate on Monday. We've got important business to tackle and big fights to win for Kentuckians and the American people.
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) April 13, 2023