Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr on February 20, 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama, US, to Addison Mitchell McConnell and Julia Shockley. He is of Scottish, Irish and English decent. He was initially brought up in Athens.
He suffered from polio at the age of two and was treated at the Warm Spring Institute for which his family had to spend a substantial sum of money. He recovered from his illness by the age of five due to his mother’s devotion and efforts of his physiotherapist. He even went on to become a talented baseball player.
His family moved to Georgia when he was eight years old and later relocated to Louisville, where he studied at the DuPont Manual High School. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in political science from the University of Louisville in 1964. He was the president of the Student Council and a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
He later did his law from the University Of Kentucky College Of Law, where he was again elected as president of the Student Bar Association. He has maintained a close association with his alma mater and actively supports their sports teams.
He enlisted in the US Army Reserve at Louisville, Kentucky, in March 1967 and had to be discharged on medical grounds after five weeks of training at Fort Knox due to optic neuritis in August 1967.
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He started his political career by interning with Senator John Sherman Cooper in 1964. He later assisted Senator Marlow Cook and was Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald R. Ford. Having gained experience in the field, he was elected as the Jefferson County Judge/Executive in 1977 and again re-elected in 1981.
In 1984, he was elected to the US senate by a narrow margin against Walter Dee Huddleston of the Democratic Party. He was the first Republican to win in Kentucky since 1968 and the only Republican Senate challenger to win that year, despite Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in the presidential elections.
In 1990, he again had a narrow victory over former Louisville Mayor, Harvey I. Sloane, by just 4.4% votes. His campaigns were marked by witty posters and interviews that resulted in a more comfortable victory over Steve Beshear in 1996 and Lois Combs Weinberg in 2002.
He again had a narrow victory against Bruce Lunsford in 2008 but came back with a massive majority against Matt Bevin in 2014.
He was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 1998 and 2000 elections. He was elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress in 2003 and was re-elected in 2004. He became the Minority Leader when the Republicans lost control of the Senate in 2006 and came back as the Senate Majority Leader in 2014. During the period that he was a minority leader he made it clear that his aim was not to let President Obama win a second term.
He is known to be a moderate who supports causes for political gains rather than ideology. As a result he has been referred to as a ‘Centrist’, who has swayed to the right. Lately he has opposed collective bargaining and minimum wage increases, which he had earlier supported. This has decreased his popularity ratings in his home state. Unlike most politicians who prefer to be popular among the electorate, McConnell prefers to be seen as the villain who has to face truth and call a spade a spade.
In his foreign policy he was initially in support of anti-apartheid legislations and better treatment of Muslim refugees. However, he soon changed his views to introduce the Protect America Act of 2007. He was against the time bound withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and later opposed US military strikes in Syria in 2013.
He has been of the view that the United States must maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia, even though the Saudi led coalition has been accused of war crimes in Yemen. He voted to override President Obama’s veto to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act into a law, but later criticised the law sighting unintended ramifications.
He is an advocate of free speech and has argued that campaign finance regulations reduce participation and competition. He led the movement against the Bipartisan Campaign Reforms Act.
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He introduced the Common Sense Medical Malpractice Reforms Act in 2002 and was against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ‘ObamaCare’. He supported the Small Business Liability Reforms Act that protected small businesses against litigations and limited the liability of non-manufacturing businesses.
He was against Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the US. He was also against measures that would curb the US economy in order to protect the environment and urged Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Though he criticised Trump’s policies, he endorsed his candidacy after Senator Rand Paul withdrew from the Republican race for presidency.
Today he is one of the most influential Republican leaders. However, he has remained controversial and has to guard against being marginalised by his opponents in the opposition as well as in his own party.
He was married to Sherrill Redmon in 1968 whom he divorced in 1980, after having three children. He then went on to marry Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labour under George W. Bush, in 1993 and Secretary of Transportation under Donald Trump.
In 2003, he went through a triple bypass heart surgery due to arterial blockages that showed up during a medical examination. He is a devoted Baptist and has published a book titled ‘The Long Game’ in 2016, which covers his personal life and career in politics.
His is known to be one of America’s wealthiest senators after his father-in-law gifted him a large sum when his mother-in-law passed away.
Mitch McConnell is on the Board of Selectors of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service and is the founder of the James Madison Centre for Free Speech.
He became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution in March 2013.
He is of the belief that the constitution of the US should not be tampered with and is against amendments to the ban on desecration of the American flag and gun control laws.
He has appeared as an off screen character in season one of the political satire ‘Alpha House’ and has often been mocked for his resemblance of a turtle.