Capitol Hill insiders are increasingly of the opinion that if a replacement procedure for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were to be instituted, it would be discriminatory against populist or outsider candidates.
During a July news conference on Capitol Hill, Senator McConnell displayed signs of transient immobility and required assistance from other Senate Republicans to exit. In a subsequent incident in August, McConnell had a transient speech lapse during a press conference in Kentucky. Following a comprehensive examination by Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician at the Capitol, McConnell has been cleared, as it was determined that he did not experience a stroke, seizure disorder, or Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
The senator, who assumed office in 1985, has expressed his intention to persist in his role as the minority leader while fulfilling the remainder of his tenure in the Senate.
The Daily Caller conducted interviews with several current and former Senate staff members regarding McConnell’s potential replacement. The Caller granted anonymity to facilitate a discussion on a sensitive subject.
“It’s almost impossible for an outsider to win leadership races these days with how much money is controlled by the party leaders on all sides, but the issue is particularly acute with McConnell in the Senate. He’s basically the most — at least to the base — the most unimpressive leader that we’ve had in previous decades. However, he is the longest-serving Republican leader or any party leader in the Senate, based primarily on the fact that he controls about a half a billion dollars every cycle in campaign funds,” a former Senate aide told the Caller.
“So if you want to get elected to the Senate, the majority of the money to run for Senate is controlled exclusively by Mitch McConnell. Rick Scott already did challenge him. I don’t know if he’s currently running, but he did run against him. He put his reputation on the line. I don’t know if the pain was so severe, that he would decline to do so again, but I can tell you there’s not even going to be much of a race. It’s going to be John Thune,” the former aide continued, referring to South Dakota Sen. John Thune.
“It’s going to be one of the Johns. The process is essentially rigged, where an outsider could not emerge with enough votes. Even if someone did try to challenge the establishment, it would be impossible for that person to win. McConnell has too much money behind him. It will either be Thune or Cornyn, but most likely Thune,” a current Senate aide told the Caller, referring to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
As of present, no members of the Republican party have publicly declared their intention to assume the position of Minority Leader in the event that Senator McConnell chooses to abdicate his role. To date, only Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has indicated his lack of confidence in Senator McConnell’s leadership and expressed concerns regarding McConnell’s ability to carry out his duties effectively. The potential reelection candidacy of Hawley is scheduled for 2024.
“If you’re concerned about conservative policy, and Senate leadership delivering policy wins, a change at the top isn’t going to necessarily deliver that. The outcome of a leadership fight has been essentially baked for years—either Thune or Cornyn will almost certainly take the helm. Barrasso would be a solid replacement, as a good conservative vote on a lot of issues, but likely another Senator would win out,” a different current Senate aide said, referring to Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
“It’s Thune or Cornyn. I think McConnell world prefers Thune but Cornyn is a better fundraiser and legislator so I wouldn’t count him out,” another former Senate aide told the Caller.
“Someone might but the rules are rigged. If it was a plurality vote, someone might do it and could win but at some point it will be a head to head vote and McConnell will make sure he has the votes to get whatever moderate he can get,” the former aide added.
When the Caller inquired about a potential replacement for Minority Leader, McConnell’s office referred to his previous statements in which he stated, “I’m going to finish my term as leader and my Senate term.”