Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in support of a proposed piece of legislation that would require his state’s governor to pick a Republican successor for McConnell if he leaves office during his term.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, is a sponsor of Senate Bill 228, which was introduced in the state senate last week. The bill proposes amending existing legislation that requires a sitting governor to appoint a replacement for a departing U.S. senator to remain in office until the next election cycle.
Under Senate Bill 228, the sitting governor would be required to pick a replacement for that departing U.S. senator from a list of three candidates provided by that senator’s political party. The sitting governor would be required to pick an appointee within 21 days of receiving the list of names for consideration, the bill says.
McConnell, who has represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate since the mid-1980s as a member of the Republican Party, is supportive of the bill, according to reports by WFPL-FM and The Courier-Journal.
“Leader McConnell has discussed the legislation with President Stivers and is fully supportive of the measure,” McConnell spokesperson Robert Steurer said in a statement provided to local outlets.
Newsweek reached out to McConnell’s office for further comment and will update this article with any response.
Though McConnell and Kentucky’s other sitting U.S. senator, Rand Paul, are both Republicans, the state is currently led by Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Beshear described the legislative attempt as “really concerning” during a Monday news conference, which his office pointed Newsweek to when contacted for comment.
“I believe that we’ve got to believe in the institution of government, of the separation of powers, more than we believe in our party,” Beshear told reporters when asked about the bill. “Whether or not we change the way that a vacancy is filled shouldn’t be decided based on who’s currently in the office. Once that happens, we start breaking the very institutions that keep us moving forward, even with changing partisanship over the years.”
“I think it’s really concerning when we start changing the rules of the game, simply because of the party of the person who’s in a specific seat,” Beshear said.
If the bill passes, Kentucky would not be the only state in which a governor must check specific political boxes in order to replace a U.S. senator who leaves office before their term is over. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, six other states currently operate under similar rules where the governor’s senate appointee must be of the same political party as the senator leaving office.
Under the current Kentucky law, Beshear would have more flexibility in choosing a replacement for either McConnell or Paul if either left office suddenly. If he were to choose a Democrat to fill either senator’s seat, it would be the first time a Democrat has represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate since Republican Sen. Jim Bunning replaced Democratic Sen. Wendell Ford in early 1999.