Sep 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What happens if McConnell resigns from office

Mitch McConnell walks, leaving his office surrounded by others

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leaves his office at the U.S. Capitol July 27. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) second public freezing episode this summer has reignited concerns about his health, term limits for aging leaders — and his future in office.

Why it matters: If McConnell, the longest-serving GOP Senate leader in U.S. history, steps down before his term ends in 2027, his state and party will need to replace one of the most calculated politicians of a generation.

Driving the news: McConnell, 81, was medically clear to continue working on Thursday, his doctor said, after he appeared unable to talk for more than 20 seconds during a news conference on Wednesday. He experienced a similar episode in July.

How it works: A Republican committee would have the power to choose three candidates to replace McConnell.

  • Then, the state's governor, Andy Beshear (D-Ky.), would appoint one of their three picks as a temporary replacement, per Kentucky Senate Bill 228, passed in 2021. A special election would follow.
  • The GOP legislature changed this law during Beshear's time in office, overriding his veto with a supermajority.
  • The Kentucky governor had historically had power to replace a senator, whether from resignation, death or expulsion.

The intrigue: McConnell backed SB 228, the Louisville Courier Journal reported in 2021, although the bill's lead sponsor said at the time McConnell was not planning to step down.

Zoom out: Three potential replacements for McConnell's latest term as the GOP Senate leader — which runs two years — are John Thune (R-S.D.), John Cornyn (R-Tx.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

Reality check: McConnell's office has not given indications that he would resign from office.

Go deeper: McConnell's scary moment raises age limit questions for Congress — again

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