Mitch McConnell seems to have to put the rest any talk of early retirement given a new law that determines how Kentucky fills vacancies for its two U.S. Senate seats that passed over the Democrat governor’s veto.
In a press conference that mostly was about the COVID vaccine distribution process, the U.S. Senate minority leader (and former majority leader) for the GOP said “I don’t think we’re going to have a vacancy. I’m not going anywhere. I just got elected to a six-year term. And I’m still the leader of my party in the Senate, so this is a hypothetical.”
McConnell, 79, insisted that state voters should ultimately decide who represents them a quickly as possible, adding that he would have supported the bill — which is similar to one in effect in Wyoming — even if Republican Gov. Matt Bevin had been reelected.
“I thought this was the best way to go, and I recommended it to [Kentucky Senate President Robert] Stivers; I’m glad they did it,” McConnell added.
Under the new law, Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear (or any future governor regardless of political affiliation), who very narrowly defeated Bevin in November 2019, has to pick someone from the same party to fill any vacancy, the Louisville Courier-Journal explained.
Historically, Kentucky’s governor has been able to choose anyone — of any political party — to fill in temporarily if a vacancy pops up in the Senate, whether that happens by the senator’s choice, expulsion or death.
SB 228 changes that appointment process in key ways. Most notably, it requires the governor to pick a temporary successor who shares the same political party as the departing senator.
It also makes them select that person from a list of three names provided by the executive committee of the departing senator’s state party.
SB 228 also includes fresh stipulations about how long the governor’s appointment to the Senate can last before voters get to elect someone to take over that seat — which depend largely on when the vacancy happens — as well as new rules about how such elections would work.
Had McConnell, whose current term runs through 2026, theoretically decided to step down, Gov. Beshear obviously would have appointed a Democrat to represent the red state.
Beshear had vetoed the bill, but both chambers of the Republican-controlled legislature overwhelmingly overrode his veto on Monday, March 29, thus putting the vacancy appointment law on the books in Kentucky.
Sen. McConnell, who is the Republican leader in the 50-50 Senate, gets a lot of static from both the left (of course) and the MAGA-supporting right. In the latter instance, it’s because of his GOP establishment/swamp credentials, particularly which came into sharp focus when he condemned President Trump in a floor speech and in an op-ed after Impeachment 2.0.
President Trump fired back that “McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse.”
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