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McConnell says he’ll use his time to oppose the GOP’s ‘isolationist’ policies

Kentucky's U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell introduces U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, an Alabama Republican, to speak at a University of Louisville McConnell Center event Tuesday.
Sylvia Goodman
/
KPR
Kentucky's U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell introduces U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, an Alabama Republican, to speak at a University of Louisville McConnell Center event Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a Shelby County group Wednesday that he plans to spend the time he has left in office fighting against the "isolationist" policies the Republican party has drifted toward in recent years.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell reassured a banquet hall of Kentuckians he has work left to do in Congress while at a county farm bureau meeting in Shelbyville on Wednesday.

“I'm not going anywhere in spite of rumors to the contrary,” McConnell said.

The 82-year-old Kentucky Republican announced in February he would step down from his role as Senate minority leader. According to the Associated Press, McConnell’s announcement was unrelated to his health, aides said. The Kentucky senator had a concussion from a fall last year and two public episodes where he froze in the middle of speaking.

The decision to step down from leadership sparked questions about whether McConnell would finish his term or run for another.

He has not announced whether he will be running for reelection in 2026, but he has remained firm that he will complete his term.

Shortly after McConnell said he would step down, Kentucky Republicans moved to once again change the state’s appointment process for senate vacancies. The new system, which would fill the vacancy with a special election rather than a gubernatorial appointment, is now at Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.

While Shelby County residents dined, McConnell talked about his legacy in the Senate and touted his success in stacking the U.S. Supreme Court with Republican nominees.

He also said his focus for the remainder of his term will be reversing some of the isolationism he’s seen cropping up in his party — a stance often trumpeted by former President Donald Trump. The two Republicans have often been at odds over funding for Ukraine, with McConnell calling for strong support.

“I'm going to devote a significant amount of my time and whatever following I have is going to be to avoid the isolationist debacle that could absolutely turn the world in a wrong direction,” McConnell said.

McConnell did not mention Trump at all in his speech, although he has endorsed him for the upcoming presidential election. He did however speak out against President Joe Biden, calling his the “most left wing administration in American history.”

“Some of you may have thought the president was going to be a moderate, because that's the way he campaigned in the Democratic primary,” McConnell said. “But if you think about it for a minute, if you're running against Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, you probably are moderate.”

Since McConnell announced he would step down as the longest-serving party leader in U.S. history, many have questioned his and Kentucky’s future on the national stage.

“The appropriations bill has a lot of money in it for Kentucky. I was proud to be a part of that,” McConnell said. “I think in a state like ours, what we can get out of the federal government we need to get.”

On Tuesday, the senate minority leader hosted an installment of his McConnell Center speaker series with freshman Senator Katie Britt, the Republican from Alabama who gave the rebuttal to the State of the Union Address this year. Britt too spoke about the importance of America as a world power in her speech, advocating for additional military spending.

McConnell said Britt is one of his “favorite freshman” and has taken her under his wing to a certain extent, adding Britt to his leadership team as an adviser last summer. The group usually includes high-ranking Republican congressional leaders.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.
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