Mitch McConnell’s Future as Leader Uncertain Following Second Freeze-Up 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell departs for the day on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2023. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Up to Speed

  • Failed 2022 Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona is gearing up for another run in 2024, the Wall Street Journal reports. Last cycle, Masters fell to incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, by nearly five percentage points. If Masters captures the Republican nomination again, he could face two major candidates in the general elections: centrist incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent former Democrat who has not formally declared she’s running for reelection, and Rep. Ruben Gallego, a progressive Democrat who is on track to win his party’s primary. Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is also toying with running for the Senate.
  • Former Rep. Mike Rogers is poised to run for Senate in Michigan, the Detroit News reports. The Republican, a former FBI agent who was chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, left Congress in 2015 after seven terms. Rogers’ prospects in the GOP primary are uncertain. He has been critical of former President Donald Trump at times—and spent the last few years living in Florida and was previously a paid CNN national security contributor. Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, is retiring.
  • Perhaps it’s the lure of an open seat, but Mike Rogers isn’t the only Republican former congressman eyeing a Senate bid in Michigan. Peter Meijer has opened an exploratory committee, and in a statement first reported by the Detroit News and provided to The Dispatch says “winning in 2024 is the only way we can stop [President Joe] Biden’s ruinous economic policies and mass weaponization of government.” But like Rogers, Meijer has his own liabilities. He was ousted in a GOP primary in 2022, after one term, primarily because he voted to impeach Trump for his culpability in the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he opposes efforts to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. “Up to this point, I have not seen any evidence that DA Willis’ actions, or lack thereof, warrant action by the prosecuting attorney oversight commission,” the Republican said Thursday during a news conference. Some Republicans in Georgia are pushing for Willis’ removal because she brought an indictment against Trump for his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the Peach State. Kemp also opposes calls by GOP state legislators for a special session of the legislature to remove Willis.

Second McConnell Freeze-Up Sparks Intra-GOP Debate About His Health, Leadership 

Senate Republicans are growing concerned about Mitch McConnell’s ability to continue serving as minority leader after the Kentucky Republican was unable to verbalize an answer to a question during a Wednesday news conference—the second such health episode he has suffered this summer.

There are discussions among some Senate Republicans, none of whom are in leadership, to convene a meeting about McConnell’s health and discuss next steps, although details are preliminary and it’s unclear when such a gathering would occur, one Senate GOP aide confirms to Dispatch Politics. Politico first reported tentative plans for a special meeting of the Republican conference once the Senate reconvenes in Washington next week following an annual summer recess. 

McConnell, 81, is the longest-serving Senate leader in U.S. history and has had a virtually unchallenged iron grip on his conference for most of his 16-plus-year tenure. That makes the willingness of some Senate Republicans and senior GOP aides to even broach a discussion of moving past McConnell remarkable. One lobbyist who requested anonymity to speak candidly told The Dispatch Thursday that in conversations with chiefs of staff for multiple senators in both parties, the general consensus was one of concern and confusion for how much longer McConnell can continue as leader. 

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