Top Republican Mitch McConnell stepping down after freezing mid-sentence in public

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the US Senate, will stand down in November.

It ends a record run in the powerful post, that has seen the 82-year-old trade blows with many top figures in multiple US administrations of the last two decades.

In remarks made in the Capitol Building, Mr McConnell said: "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 that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate."

Despite relinquishing the position, Mr McConnell intends to see out his term in the US's upper house, which ends in January 2027.

Born in 1942, the former lawyer has represented Kentucky in the chamber since 1985.

He was first named party leader for the GOP in 2007, and has since won nine successive elections to keep the post for 17 years - the longest anyone has led their party in the Senate in US history.

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The Kentucky senator also said in the Capitol: "I love the Senate. It has been my life.

"There may be more distinguished members of this body throughout our history, but I doubt there are any with more admiration for it.

"Father Time remains undefeated. I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership."

Speaking after the announcement, President Joe Biden praised the outgoing party leader and said: "I'm sorry to see McConnell step down.

"He and I - I've trusted him, we've got a great relationship. We fight like hell, and he never, never misrepresented anything. I'm sorry to see him step down."

Aides said Mr McConnell's announcement was unrelated to his health, but questions were raised about his fitness for office last year after several public instances where he appeared to freeze while speaking.

In July, the Republican appeared to stop mid-sentence and stare into space for around 20 seconds while giving a weekly press conference.

His Republican colleagues grabbed his elbows and asked if he wanted to go back to his office after pausing, before he slowly walked back with an aide and the senator for Wyoming, John Barrasso.

Then, in August, Mr McConnell appeared to freeze again when asked if he would run for re-election.

After being asked the question, he stopped speaking and stared for more than 30 seconds, before being asked: "Did you hear the question, senator?"

He did come around and briefly respond to another question.

Ending 'closer than I'd prefer'

Those moments came after Mr McConnell was out of the Senate for almost six weeks when he fell and hit his head at a dinner event.

Speaking on Wednesday, he gave no specific reason why he was stepping down, but cited the recent death of his wife's youngest sister as a moment that prompted introspection.

"The end of my contributions are closer than I'd prefer," he said.

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The senator is possibly best known for his battles with presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

With the Democrat's time in office often seeing Republicans with majorities in both parts of Congress, Mr McConnell worked in the Senate to delay and obstruct reforms to health care and banking, and blocked the then president's appointments to the Supreme Court.

Mr McConnell also did not endorse Mr Trump's 2016 campaign, publicly distanced himself from some of the Republican president's comments, and repeatedly attacked claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

He also called the 6 January riots a "failed insurrection" which "tried to disrupt our democracy".

Since then, Mr Trump has regularly attacked the Republican, calling him a "dumb son of a bitch" in April 2021 for refusing to support his bid to overturn the election.

In his rant, the former president also noted that Mr McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, served as his transportation secretary.

"I hired his wife," he said. "Did he ever say thank you?"