McConnell to Remain in Senate Until Term Ends to Deal With GOP’s ‘Isolationist Issue’

The senator claims America is facing its ‘most dangerous time’ since the fall of the Berlin Wall due to rising terror and threats from Russia and China.
McConnell to Remain in Senate Until Term Ends to Deal With GOP’s ‘Isolationist Issue’
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol, on Nov. 28, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will continue to be a member of the Senate until his term ends, despite stepping down from the leadership post, and plans to focus on dealing with disagreements within the party.

“I’ve served longer as a leader than anybody in American history, 18 years. So look, I finally thought it was time to go in a different direction. But I’m not leaving the Senate,” Mr. McConnell said in an April 2 interview with radio personality Terry Meiners. In February, Mr. McConnell announced his intention to step down from the post of Senate GOP leader in November, a position he held for 17 years.
The senator’s term ends in January 2027, two years after stepping down from the Senate leader post. When asked whether he would stay through the entire term, Mr. McConnell confirmed his decision. “Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, I don’t know how many times I can say that. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Mr. McConnell now intends to concentrate on the “isolationist issue” of the Republican Party and will try “to help us get to the majority in the Senate.”

“I’m particularly involved in actually fighting back against the isolationist movement in my own party,” he said. “And the symbol of that lately is, are we going to help Ukraine or not? And I think it’s extremely important that we do that. I’m not a particular fan of the Biden administration, particularly the decision to run out of Afghanistan which is like sending Putin [a] green light. But we are where we are, and the Europeans have stepped up.”

Mr. McConnell said it was “troublesome” to see many Republicans heading in the same direction as Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) regarding Ukraine. Mr. Paul has strongly opposed sending more foreign aid to Ukraine. Around half of Republicans in the Senate opted against sending Ukraine $60 billion in funding.

The GOP Senate leader pointed out that “we’re not losing any of our troops” on the Ukraine issue. “The Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting. If the Russians take Ukraine, some NATO country would be next, and then we will be right in the middle of it. So, I think on the fact basis, this is absolutely what we ought to do. And we just disagree on this.”

Mr. McConnell warned that this was the “most dangerous time” for America since the fall of the Berlin Wall, due to the rising terror threat, noting that the United States experienced it during 9/11 and that Israel is “certainly experiencing it now.” In addition, the United States is facing “big power competition” from Russia and China.

While Russia is becoming like the “old Soviet Union,” China not only presents tough commercial competition but also poses “national security problems,” he said. In light of such circumstances, it’s time “for the democratic world to be unified,” he added.

“The prime minister of Japan said, if you want to send President Xi a message, beat Putin. That’s the view of the South Koreans, the Taiwanese, and the Australians. This is a worldwide problem for democracies. They need our leadership and we need their partnership. And so that’s where I’m going to put the main part of my focus in the coming years.”

GOP in Election Year

Talking about the upcoming presidential election this year, Mr. McConnell said that both Democrat and Republican candidates—President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump—“don’t score very well with the public.” However, “one of them is going to win.”

“We’ve got a good chance, I think, of flipping the Senate no matter how the presidential race comes out. I’ve got 13 incumbents, none of them are in the tough race. We’ve got West Virginia, which I think we’ve won ... and good pickup opportunities in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and believe it or not, Maryland,” he said.

“We’ve got a great candidate in Maryland. You wouldn’t think we could compete there, but we are. So my point is, what’s within my level of impact is trying to flip the Senate. I'd like the person who succeeds me to be the majority leader.”

When asked whether he has “any contact at all” with President Trump, Mr. McConnell did not give a straight reply. Instead, he said, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the Senate.”

The Senator only publicly endorsed President Trump as the GOP presidential nominee last month after the former president swept all but one of the races during Super Tuesday.

“It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States … It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support,” Mr. Connell said during his endorsement.

Mr. McConnell’s exit from the GOP leadership position comes after multiple health incidents last year. In March 2023, he was hospitalized after falling from a hotel in Washington. He also froze up in front of reporters in two separate incidents.
Several other lawmakers will be retiring or seeking other posts, thus not running for reelection in the 2024 race.

By late November, 26 lawmakers had announced such plans, out of which 19 were House Representatives while the remaining seven were senators.

Lawmakers planning to retire include Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), as well as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

An analysis by FiscalNote, a policy intelligence firm, shows that the average age of members of the current 118th Congress is 58 years, three years younger than the previous Congress. Senate members average 64 years old, while those in the House of Representatives average 57.