Will Mitch McConnell retire? Kentucky senator's exit strategy sparks controversy: 'Daniel Cameron to take over'

Under Kentucky state law, the governor is tasked with selecting an individual to replace a senator temporarily till the next state-wide elections. McConnell is working on a plan to change that

                            Will Mitch McConnell retire? Kentucky senator's exit strategy sparks controversy: 'Daniel Cameron to take over'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly planning to step down before the end of his term. Serving since 1985, the Kentucky senator — who was elected to his seventh term in 2020 — is reportedly working with Kentucky's state legislature on an exit strategy. The plan involves passing a bill through the state legislature that would strip power from the hands of the Governor to appoint McConnell's successor and instead make it the duty of the Republican Party in the state.

The sudden shift is part of McConnell's plan to secure his legacy, which is reportedly on shaky ground following a public split with former President Donald Trump after the January 6 insurrection. McConnell voted to acquit Trump at the impeachment hearing but said Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol. That led to calls for censure by Kentucky Republicans, but McConnell is yet to face such action. 


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McConnell stirred up controversy after saying he didn't watch Trump's speech at CPAC 2021, further indicating that he might be willing to end his association with the Republican party. The Senator is facing a crisis of identity, as he attempts to keep the GOP from splitting over their future. 

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the press and his supporters during a campaign stop on October 28, 2020, in Smithfield, Kentucky (Getty Images)

McConnell to strip power from Governor

Under Kentucky state law, the governor is tasked with selecting an individual to replace a senator temporarily till the next state-wide elections. McConnell, along with Republican legislators, is working on a plan to change that.

Senate Bill 228 would strip the governor of that power, instead tasking the state executive committee of the same political party as the senator to do so. They would present a list of three candidates to the governor to choose from, rather than letting the governor pick at will as is currently the case.

It was brought by State President Robert Stivers and co-sponsored by State Senator Tom Buford. "It would be proper and appropriate the political party that held the office would be the political party that replaced it until the next election cycle," Buford said to The Intercept.

The state GOP has already prepared a list of possible successors, topped by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Other names being floated are former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft and Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams. All three have very close ties to McConnell. 

According to The Intercept, Republicans are concerned that Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, would select a Democratic candidate to replace McConnell. With a 50-50 split in the Senate, that would give Democrats a temporary advantage. This is something the party wants to avoid with Democrats looking to push bills to expand voting rights, kill the filibuster and pass a massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. 

Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responds after the Senate voted 57-43 to acquit former President Donald Trump on February 13, 2021, in Washington, DC (Congress website)

Why now? Is McConnell unwell?

The big question is why now? According to Buford, "No specific reason why now". According to The Intercept, Buford said that the plan was in the works for "several years" and gained steam after Rand Paul was attacked in 2017. The senator suffered six broken ribs and ended up having part of his lung removed.

According to sources, McConnell is pushing the measure for various reasons, but poor health often comes up as a key factor. McConnell's health has been a concern for a long time. The 79-year-old appeared with bruised and battered hands in 2020, fuelling speculation of ill health. In 2019, he had to have a surgery after a fall left him with an injured shoulder. 

Insiders told The Intercept that McConnell's health was not a concern, but it was more about cementing his legacy. The senator has been a major force in American politics but has really helped turn the tide of conservative politics over the last decade. McConnell is keen to ensure that his vision continues as the Democrats struggle for control of the Senate. Another factor that could be influencing the decision is the controversy around McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao. 

Chao was the Transportation secretary under Trump and allegedly misused her office for personal tasks. The Transportation Department asked the Justice Department to investigate the matter but the DoJ declined to pursue the case. At the time, concerns were raised that McConnell played a role in the DoJ's decision. 

There is no deadline as of yet for McConnell to leave, but he could do so by the end of the year if the bill passes. Since the Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the state legislature, it is very likely that the bill will pass even though Governor Beshear is opposed to it. That way, McConnell would be able to leave national politics while ensuring that the power arrangement in the Senate remains. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to a series of votes at the U.S. Capitol on August 1, 2019, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Twitter calls it 'political manipulation and corruption'

The news of the bill did not go down well with many on Twitter. One user tweeted, "Gerrymandering the State of Kentucky so @LeaderMcConnell aka Moscow Mitch McConnell can demand HIS chosen replacement is political manipulation and corruption." Another user said, "This should be on billboards all over Kentucky and even the whole country so maybe some people can really see how evil McConnell is."

One went on to say, "Mitch McConnell has groomed, and now wants, Daniel Cameron to take over his senate position. You might remember Daniel Cameron is the KY AG who lied about the charges he presented to jurors for the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor."





Another tweeted, "JUST SAY NO- to Mitch McConnell's ESCAPE PLAN McConnells's bill takes the power away from the Governor of the state to appoint the replacement if a senator doesn't complete his term. DEMOCRATIC Andy Beshear is ready to replace Mitch. He wants to let his party's-KY GOP to choose."

A user said "This is very bad news for Kennedy’s voters and for the nation. The people of Kentucky did not vote for McConnell’s pick for his successor. (They probably didn’t even vote for McConnell)." Another user asked "This Corrupts Everyone in Kentucky that Voted for Democrat Gov Andy Brashear I am One of the Gov. Beshear Voters. Why cant he chose McConnell's Replacement?"




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