McConnell staying in Senate to help fight against GOP ‘isolationist movement’ after he steps down as leader

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would remain in Congress through the end of his term in 2026 to help fight the GOP’s growing “isolationist movement” in the upper chamber.

McConnell, who will step down as minority leader in November, said he will focus on pushing for a broader national security approach for the last two years of his term.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives remarks during a presentation at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

“I’m particularly involved in actually fighting back against the isolationist movement in my own party. And some in the other as well. And the symbol of that lately is: Are we going to help Ukraine or not?” McConnell told Kentucky radio station WHAS on Monday. “I’ve got this sort of on my mind for the next couple years as something I’m going to focus on.”

Republican isolationism saw a resurgence after former President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 after he ran on an “America First” agenda. Trump is also the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee for 2024. 

McConnell said the isolationist approach is dangerous for America’s national security, including the debate over sending aid to Ukraine. McConnell said that if Ukraine fell to Russia, it would likely attack a country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, forcing the United States into a hot war.

“What’s made [Republican isolationism] more troublesome is it seems to me that others are heading in that direction, making arguments that are easily refuted. We’re not losing any of our troops. The Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting,” McConnell said. “If the Russians take Ukraine, some NATO country would be next, and then, we will be right in the middle of it.”

McConnell has also pushed the House of Representatives to send the Senate’s Ukraine aid bill to President Joe Biden’s desk. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is in favor of sending more aid to Ukraine, but he has been hesitant to support the Senate’s bill, which includes $60 billion in funding for Ukraine.

The minority leader’s views differ from that of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who McConnell said would be the first to call himself an “isolationist.” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) is also considered an “isolationist” and has touted Trump’s “America First” policies.

McConnell endorsed Trump for president last month despite their different views on foreign policy, but he said his priority is focusing on the Senate and preparing to hand the reins over to either Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) or Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).


“Biden’s got problems too. Both of these candidates don’t score very well with the public, but one of them’s going to win,” McConnell said. “What am I going to do? I’m going to concentrate on trying to turn my job over to the next majority leader.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is also “seriously considering” running for minority leader but has not made a decision so far.

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