OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is making a local power move to help choose his successor, which has fueled rumors that he’s eyeing retirement.
McConnell claims he is not planning to retire anytime soon, but he’s making sure that when he does, his seat goes to a Republican.
Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is currently the governor of Kentucky.
Beshear has the power to pick a replacement senator should something happen to a sitting senator.
On Monday, Kentucky passed a “vacancy bill” that would allow the state’s legislature to fill vacant U.S. Senate seats.
The bill, SB 228, requires the Kentucky governor to fill an empty seat in the Senate with a person from the same political party as the departing senator.
The bill also requires Kentucky’s governor to select a successor from a list of three people given to the governor by the executive committee of the same party of the departing lawmaker.
As an example: If McConnell — a Republican — stepped down from the U.S. Senate, this bill would require Kentucky’s Democrat governor to choose one of three Republicans on a list to fill McConnell’s seat.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported,
SB 228 also includes fresh stipulations about how long the governor’s appointment to the Senate can last before voters get to elect someone to take over that seat — which depend largely on when the vacancy happens — as well as new rules about how such elections would work.
Kentucky hasn’t had a Democratic senator since January 1999, when former Sen. Wendell Ford retired. And with the state’s increasingly conservative electorate, SB 228 is designed to ensure the governor can’t appoint a Democrat to what’s likely to be a safe seat for Republicans.
Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed SB 228 in early March, saying that it goes against the U.S. Constitution’s 17th Amendment.
“Senate Bill 228 violates that very purpose of the amendment by returning the power, specifically in law, to a political party to come up with names for a vacancy,” Beshear said at the time.
However, Kentucky’s Republican-controlled state legislature overrode the previous veto of the bill.
McConnell was asked about the bill on Monday being passed and said the bill does not mean he is going to leave office anytime soon.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a vacancy. I’m not going anywhere. I just got elected to a six-year term. And I’m still the leader of my party in the Senate, so this is a hypothetical,” McConnell said. “But I had watched this over the years in the Senate as various vacancies were filled and I thought this was the best way to go.”
Referencing the former Republican Governor of Kentucky, McConnell said “I can assure you … I would have supported this had the governor been Matt Bevin. I think it’s a good idea for the people to elect the senator.”
“The goal here, that I support … was if such a vacancy were to occur to have the people as quickly as possible elect the new senator. And in the interim, honor the results of the last election,” McConnell said.
Beshear, the Democratic governor, is opposed to the bill, but Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate.
This will become law in the very near future.