Report: Mitch McConnell working on leaving the Senate before his term is over

A new report from The Intercept presents strong evidence that Mitch McConnell is preparing to leave office before his Senate term expires. Coincidentally or not, this report closely follows release of a report by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General stating that McConnel’s wife, Elaine Chao, used her office staff to promote her wealthy family’s shipping interests, and could face federal prosecution.

Currently, if Senate Minority Leader McConnell were to leave his Senate seat, his successor would be named by Kentucky’s Governor Andrew Beshear, a Democrat, leaving wide open the possibility of handing an actual 51-49 Senate majority to Chuck Schumer, and liberating Kamala Harris from her role as a tiebreaker and freeing her to take over more duties from fading Joe Biden.  According to The Intercept, McConnell is working closely with the Kentucky legislature to change the manner in which a successor is chosen.

[N]ew legislation McConnell is pushing in the Kentucky General Assembly would strip the governor of that power and put it into the hands of the state GOP. (snip)

The new legislation, Senate Bill 228 — dubbed by some inside the state Legislature as the Daniel Cameron [McConnell’s protégé] Election Bill — was filed on February 10, 2021, during the Kentucky General Assembly’s 30-day “short” session. The bill alters current state statute that allows the governor to appoint a replacement in the event of a vacancy to the U.S. Senate. If the bill becomes law, the appointment to fill a vacancy will be selected from a list of three names submitted by the state executive committee of the same political party as the senator who held the vacant seat. According to the bill, the appointee from that list will then serve until a successor has been elected by voters. The legislation goes on to list instructions on when elections take place in the event of a vacancy.

According to some sources, this is nothing new:

Republican state Sen. Tom Buford, the single co-sponsor on the bill brought by Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, said there has been a discussion for “several years” about changing the way Kentucky replaces U.S. senators.

Maybe so. After all, McConnell is 79 years old, and his Senate term lasts until 2026. But how many members of the Beltway aristocracy want to hand over the reins of power before they have to? There is zero evidence that McConnell is impaired in the way that President Biden sems to be.

According to the Intercept, successors are already lined up:

Inside a small two-story house that carries McConnell’s name, the leadership of the Republican Party of Kentucky is monitoring plans, and according to some, there are already discussions on who could replace him in the event of a vacancy for his seat. There are already three names that consistently come up on the potential list. (snip)

It was McConnell who ensured an endorsement for Daniel Cameron from Trump; McConnell also secured a speaking role at the Republican National Convention and an Oval Office meeting for Cameron, who served as McConnell’s general counsel and has a father-son relationship with the senator. Likewise, when many expressed doubts over Kelly Craft’s lack of experience and continual absence from her previous post, it was McConnell who shepherded the megadonor through the Senate confirmation process for the U.N. ambassadorship. His ties to Craft date back to 2004. 

Michael Adams is not as close to the minority leader as the others on the list, but he does run in the same circles as those in McConnell’s inner circle, like Scott Jennings, who ran a super PAC that spent millions to bolster McConnell’s reelection efforts in the bluegrass state. 

Incidentally, The GOP majority in both houses of the Kentucky Legislature is large enough to override a veto by the Democrat governor.

Meanwhile, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who comes from a very wealthy family in the shipping business that does massive business with China,  may be facing a world of hurt. The New York Times reports:

While serving as transportation secretary during the Trump administration, Elaine Chao repeatedly used her office staff to help family members who run a shipping business with extensive ties to China, a report released Wednesday by the Transportation Department’s inspector general concluded.

The inspector general referred the matter to the Justice Department in December for possible criminal investigation. But in the weeks before the end of Trump administration, two Justice Department divisions declined to do so.

Am I being too cynical if I wonder about a possible deal to spare the Mrs from DOJ prosecution if her hubby gets out of Dodge?

Or am I too naïve and trusting, at least compared to Sundance of The Last Refuge, who sees a far darker plot:

McConnell is fully exposed now; people can finally see through his schemes and understand his motives and maneuvers. (snip)

As we noted following the election, the business model of selling votes is no longer as lucrative.  McConnell and Harry Reid created and then held the UniParty power system as a system for affluence and influence.   However, McConnell’s signature legacy item will be his role in eliminating the filibuster and turning the senate into a simple majority system.

In order to give the appearance of his opposition to this move, despite his years of working earnestly toward it, McConnell will exit very soon after the filibuster is eliminated.  He will then blame the elimination of the filibuster as the excuse for his departure.  This is the Machiavellian way he operates.

Or maybe it is simply the wrath of Trump, following McConnell’s denunciation of him over January 6.

Despite his many faults, McConnell has an incredibly valuable skill set. His mastery of the Senate’s arcane rules has enabled him to seed the federal judiciary with a boatload of conservative judges. I can’t really hold him responsible for the disappointments rendered byt the Supreme Court justices he shepherded into power. He can play an important role in slowing down and even stopping the worst of the Biden agenda from becoming law.

I don’t honor McConnell as a conservative dreamboat, but I do appreciate the man for what he can do, if he uses his power to advance the conservative agenda, even if he is far from perfect.

Caricature by Donkey Hotey (cropped) CC BY-2.0 license