Apr 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

McConnell: Flipping Senate "most important" thing before leaving leadership

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference ahead of a vote on a foreign aid package at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference ahead of a vote on a foreign aid package at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday he's focused on returning Senate control to Republicans, rather than who ends up in the White House.

Why it matters: As President Biden and former President Trump move closer to a rematch, McConnell is preparing to leave his leadership position after 18 years as either the Senate's majority or minority leader.

  • McConnell announced his plans to leave leadership in February but has committed to staying in Congress until 2027, when his current term expires.

What he's saying: "I think the single most important thing I can do is make sure my successor is the majority leader, no matter how the presidential election comes out," McConnell told CBS News' Margaret Brennan during an interview that aired Sunday on "Face the Nation."

  • Brennan had asked what could be done to counter Trump being a trusted source of information on Russia and Ukraine by Republican voters, according to a CBS News poll.
  • "What I want to do and what I'm focused on is not the presidential race, but getting the Senate back. I've been the majority leader, I've been the minority leader, majority is better," he said.

Details: McConnell listed his concerns for the U.S. going forward, regardless of which candidate ends up in the White House, and said he wants the next administration to increase defense spending.

  • "This administration's budget requests for defense haven't even kept up with inflation," he said. "The Democrats have always insisted that we spend just as much on domestic as defense. ... Our spending needs to reflect the needs, and the needs now are on the defense side."
  • The senator also warned against the threat of isolationism, acknowledging that the passage of the $95 billion foreign aid package was a step in the right direction, but other issues remain.
  • McConnell said he can't control who wins the election, but he intends to use his influence in the Senate to increase defense spending, and " get ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us, rather than just looking backward."
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