Mitch McConnell announces support for succession bill, strengthening resignation rumors

Amid an intensifying intraparty battle over the future of the GOP, a number of leaders on the right are jostling to solidify their hold on power into the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

According to The Intercept, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reportedly backed a bill in the Kentucky legislature that would require that state’s governor to fill a vacancy created by a U.S. Senator’s departure with an individual hailing from the same political party, in what some see as a signal that the longtime D.C. power broker may not serve the full six years of his current term.

As reported by Louisville NPR affiliate station WFPL, McConnell’s support for Senate Bill 228 comes at a time when legislators in the Bluegrass State endeavor to whittle away power held by Gov. Andy Beshear (D). If passed, the measure would drastically alter the manner in which replacements are currently chosen, namely, governors enjoy free rein to choose whomever they wish.

The bill under consideration would require the governor to select a senator’s replacement from a list of three candidates tapped by the state party of which the departing lawmaker is a member, as the Associated Press noted. Kentucky’s Senate seats are currently occupied by McConnell and Rand Paul, both Republicans.

According to The Intercept, McConnell has already begun narrowing his preferred list of successors, which likely includes current Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, and former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft.

McConnell, 79, has served in the Senate since 1985, and was re-elected to a seventh term this past November, by a healthy margin. He has been the leader of his party’s caucus since 2007, but with Democrats taking narrow control of the Senate after the 2020 election, he finds himself in the minority position for the first time since 2015.

Even so, he is working hard to safeguard his legacy within a party that is increasingly divided between establishment figures like himself and those with a more populist message, such as Donald Trump. The former president has harshly criticized McConnell in recent days by calling him “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” further warning that “if Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”

Though it is not entirely clear why McConnell is engaged in this push at this particular point in time, possible reasons could include heretofore undisclosed concerns about the senator’s age and health, the escalating war of words with Trump, and an overriding desire to hand-pick his successor.

Whether McConnell is already aware of specific reasons that would prevent him from serving his full six-year term, or he is simply engaging in what The Intercept referred to as “the long game he has played his entire career,” remains to be seen.