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Who will replace Mitch McConnell?

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he will step down from GOP leadership after the November general election.

The 82-year-old is the longest-serving party leader in the history of the Senate, having been in the post since 2007.

On the floor of the upper chamber on Wednesday, Mr McConnell said recently losing his sister-in-law had prompted “a certain introspection”.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them,” he said about former President Donald Trump’s takeover of the party.

“One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter. So I stand before you today ... to say this will be my last term as Republican leader of the senate,” he added.

Here are seven Republican senators who can take over as the party leader in the upper chamber:

From top left: Shelley Moore Capito, John Barrasso, Joni Ernst, John Thune, John Cornyn, and Tom Cotton (Getty)
From top left: Shelley Moore Capito, John Barrasso, Joni Ernst, John Thune, John Cornyn, and Tom Cotton (Getty)

John Thune

Mr Thune, 63, served in the House as South Dakota’s lone representative between 1997 and 2003 before he joined the Senate in 2005.

Senator John Thune (Getty Images)
Senator John Thune (Getty Images)

Between 2009 and 2012, he chaired the Senate Republican Policy Committee, before becoming chair of the Senate Republican Conference, a post he held until 2019 when he ascended to his current role of Senate Republican whip.

Between 2015 and 2019, he also chaired the Commerce Committee.

“He leaves obviously big shoes to fill,” Mr Thune told The Independent about Mr McConnell on Wednesday.

John Barrasso

The Wyoming Senator, 71, has been the chair of the Senate Republican Conference since 2019, taking over from Mr Thune.

Senator John Barrasso (Getty)
Senator John Barrasso (Getty)

After serving in the state senate, he became a US senator in 2007. He has served on the Indian Affairs, Republican Policy, Environment, and Energy committees.

John Cornyn

Having been a Texas senator since 2002, Mr Cornyn, 72, was the Senate GOP whip between 2013 and 2019, when he handed over to Mr Thune.

Senator John Cornyn (AP)
Senator John Cornyn (AP)

“I’m going to talk to my colleagues,” he told The Independent after Mr McConnell’s announcement on Wednesday.

By Thursday, those conversations were obviously well under way, as Mr Cornyn would become the first senator to throw his hat in the ring.

Mr Cornyn served on the Texas Supreme Court in the late 1990s before becoming the state’s attorney general, a job he left to join the US Senate. He chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee between 2009 and 2013.

Rick Scott

Senator Rick Scott (Getty Images)
Senator Rick Scott (Getty Images)

A former businessman worth at least $250m, Mr Scott, 71, entered politics in the 2010 election, becoming governor of Florida. He left in 2019 to join the senate.

A strong critic and one-time challenger of Mr McConnell, Mr Scott helmed the National Republican Senatorial Committee between 2021 and 2023.

Joni Ernst

The 53-year-old Iowan shot to fame with an ad about castrating hogs in her youth as she ran for the Senate in the 2014 election.

Senator Joni Ernst (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Senator Joni Ernst (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Joining the chamber in early 2015, Ms Ernst previously served in the Iowa State Senate.

While in the US Senate, the former Army officer has been a Vice Chair of the Republican Conference, chaired the GOP Policy Committee and is currently the ranking member on the Small Business Committee.

Tom Cotton

The 46-year-old is the youngest of the bunch – Mr Cotton joined the Senate in 2015 after representing Arkansas in the House since 2013.

Senator Tom Cotton (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Senator Tom Cotton (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

While serving in the military, he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shelley Moore Capito

The West Virginian, 70, has been in the Senate since 2015 and has served as a Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference since early last year. She has been the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee since 2021.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (AP)
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (AP)

Before joining the Senate, she was in the US House between 2001 and 2015 and the West Virginia House of Delegates between 1996 and 2000.