McConnell steps down as leader at the end of the year

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the longtime top Republican in the Senate, said Wednesday he will step down as party leader at the end of this year, acknowledging that his Reagan-esque views on national security have put him out of step with the party now led by former President Donald J. .Trump.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at the moment,” said Mr. McConnell, who turned 82 last week, announced his intentions in a speech on the Senate floor. “I have many flaws. Not understanding politics is not one of them.”

His decision, which was previously reported by the Associated Press, was not a surprise. Mr. McConnell had a serious slump last year and had several episodes where he momentarily froze in front of the media. He has also faced growing resistance within his own ranks over his push for continued military aid to Ukraine, as well as his close-to-the-vest style of leadership.

Mr. McConnell has said he will serve out his full Senate term, which ends in 2026, but was more vague about whether he would try to stay on after the November election.

His announcement followed a White House meeting on Tuesday in which he pushed hard for passage of a foreign aid bill that includes more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and called on Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the proposal to the House floor.

“I believe more strongly than ever that America’s global leadership is essential to preserving the shining city on the hill that Ronald Reagan talked about,” said Mr. McConnell.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, said he expected the decision of Mr. McConnell to step down frees him to aggressively push for aid to Ukraine.

“It’s probably the case that on his way to retirement, he’s going to work as hard as he can to make sure that national security legislation crosses the finish line in the House and Senate to President Biden’s desk,” Mr. Jeffries said in an interview.

Mr. McConnell became the longest-serving Senate leader in history at the start of this Congress, surpassing Mike Mansfield of Montana and fulfilling a personal goal. Although he worked closely with Mr. Trump to appoint conservative judges to the federal bench and three justices to the Supreme Court, Mr. McConnell broke with Mr. Trump over his refusal to recognize that President Biden had won the 2020 election. 6/2021 Attack on the Capitol , for which Mr. McConnell blamed Mr. Trump even though he voted against impeachment.

In his address, Mr. McConnell also said the recent death of a close relative gave him pause for thought.

“When you lose a loved one, especially at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that goes along with the grieving process,” he said. “Maybe it’s God’s way of reminding you in your own life’s journey to prioritize the influence of the world we will all inevitably leave behind.”

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