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Kentucky GOP Moves to Strip Democratic Governor of Senate Appointment Powers Amid McConnell Speculation

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A super-majority in Kentucky’s Republican legislature overrode Governor Andy Beshear’s veto on Friday of a bill that would strip the executive branch of Kentucky of all authority to fill future U.S. Senate vacancies. Supporters of the new law claimed that it had nothing to do with recent concerns over the health of Republican Mitch McConnell (the state’s 82-year-old senator and majority leader of the U.S. Senate). The Senate is now a very divided body, and the process of filling any vacancies has become more important.

Kentucky’s GOP legislators will curtail the governor’s independence in 2021. They have now completely removed the governor’s role from filling such vacancies. The new law would require the state to hold special elections, with the winner serving the remainder of their term.

Steven Rudy, the Republican House Floor Leader and Majority Floor Leader, said during a short debate.

Always, the people should elect a United States Senator.

In his veto letter, Governor Beshear said:

Before these maneuvers, the same system was in place in 1942. This administration should have the same authority as past administrations.

McConnell’s decision to change the state’s Senate succession process coincides with a time of transition for him. In February, he announced his intention to step down as Senate leader after the November elections, ending his term. McConnell did not give a specific reason for the decision, but he did mention that his wife’s younger sister’s recent death prompted him to reflect.

McConnell made his announcement after two instances where he seemed to “freeze” or look disoriented at press briefings.

McConnell paused for 19 seconds during a July news conference at Capitol Hill before walking away from the camera. McConnell quickly resumed the news conference and told reporters “I’m okay.”

McConnell suffered a similar episode in August when he was asked about his plans to run for reelection and appeared blank-faced for 30 seconds. His term as Senate leader ends in January 2025. After the awkward silence, a staffer asks reporters to “please talk up”.

The attending physician at the U.S. Capitol attributed possible causation to McConnell’s recovery from a head injury after he fell in March last year. He also speculated it could be caused by dehydration. McConnell’s leadership duties were cleared by medical professionals.

McConnell stated in a radio interview with WHAS-AM, Louisville that the Senate succession act was a good one because it allowed voters to choose the successor if a vacancy were to occur. McConnell did not reveal whether he planned to run for re-election but he said that he was going to serve out his Senate term. “But that’s what I’m doing.”

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