Ron Johnson says McConnell retirement is an 'opportunity' to change Washington

 March 1, 2024

Pro-Trump Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wi.) hailed the news of Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) retirement from Senate leadership, saying it opens a door of "opportunity" to change how Washington D.C. functions.

McConnell has led Republicans in the Senate for almost 20 years. During that time, he has become a target of the left and the Trump movement, which often cast him as a treacherous tool of the liberal establishment.

Who will replace McConnell?

The sudden news of McConnell's retirement was welcomed by his critics, including Johnson, who thanked McConnell for giving the Republican conference "time" to select a replacement.

"I think it gives us an opportunity. … I want our conference to really take a look at what we’re about. I’m suggesting we develop a mission statement,” he said during a radio interview with Breitbart. 

The top contenders to replace McConnell are longtime allies of his. The "three Johns," as they are known, are Minority Whip John Thune (R-Sd.), Conference Chair John Barrasso (R-Wy.), and John Cornyn (R-Tx.).

With the exception of Barrasso, all three have a history of sparring with Trump. Cornyn, who Trump previously labeled a "RINO," formally announced his candidacy for McConnell's position on Thursday.

Johnson praised Florida Senator Rick Scott, who unsuccessfully challenged McConnell in 2022.

“Let’s see where it all goes," Johnson said.

McConnell's high point

Despite his criticism of McConnell, Johnson gave the longtime leader some praise for his handling of the Supreme Court following Justice Antonin Scalia's death in 2016.

In one of the most controversial moves of his career, McConnell blocked President Obama from nominating a replacement, which helped solidify a conservative majority under the Trump administration.

Johnson described the moment, often cited by Democrats as one of cynical partisanship, as McConnell's "supreme moment of leadership."

"That was the right call. It was very helpful, I think, in the 2016 election. And we ended up with a conservative court because the American people decided to like Donald Trump and put Republicans in the majority in the Senate and confirmed some conservative justices."

But Johnson blasted McConnell's record on the budget, noting the national debt has ballooned during the years he was in charge.

"And over the entire time period, there’s only one person that was in the room with every debt, student negotiation, every appropriation, every budget negotiation, that was Mitch McConnell,” he said.

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