Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed rumors of his impending retirement on Tuesday, one day after the Kentucky Legislature enacted a new law governing how senatorial vacancies are filled.
"I don't think we're going to have a vacancy. I'm not going anywhere,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “I just got elected to a six-year term. And I'm still the leader of my party in the Senate.”
The remarks come as speculation is rife that the minority leader is plotting his exit from public life. Mr. McConnell, who has served in the Senate since 1985, turned 79 this February just as Republicans lost the Senate majority after two special election defeats in Georgia.
The loss of the majority leader’s post, coupled with an increasingly antagonistic relationship with former President Donald Trump, has left many wondering if Mr. McConnell is eyeing retirement.
Such rumors only intensified this year, when the Republican-led Kentucky Legislature passed a law overhauling the process for filling a vacancy in the Senate.
Generally, the state’s governor, currently Democrat Andy Beshear, would have the authority to appoint a replacement in the event of a Senate vacancy. The appointee would then hold the seat until the next statewide election when candidates would be allowed to run for the remainder of the departed senator’s term.
The law passed by Republicans, however, changes that process. It requires the state’s governor to temporarily appoint a successor from the same political party as the departing lawmaker. The law also requires that the interim appointee is from a list of three individuals suggested by the executive committee of the party to whom the previous senator belonged.
Furthermore, the law mandates that a special election be held the next time voters head to the polls to elect members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The change means that at most an appointee can hold the seat for two years.
Mr. McConnell, along with nearly every other statewide GOP official in Kentucky, supported the bill. It was opposed by Mr. Beshear, who vetoed the bill earlier this month.
"It delegates the power to select a representative to an unelected, unaccountable political committee that only represents a fraction of Kentuckians, when a senator is supposed to represent all of us," the governor said.
Mr. Beshear's attempt was unsuccessful, however, as the state Legislature overturned his veto on Monday.
Mr. McConnell praised the Legislature's actions on Tuesday, arguing that any “hypothetical” Senate vacancy should be decided by voters at the earliest opportunity.
“I had watched this over the years in the Senate, as various vacancies were filled, and I thought this was the best way to go,” said Mr. McConnell before admitting he had recommended the Legislature make the change.