(CNN)Mitch McConnell may not be in control of the Senate anymore, but he’s still making moves — and winning political fights — that prove he remains a major power player in his home state of Kentucky.
To that end: On Monday in the Bluegrass State, the Republican-controlled state legislature voted into law a proposal that drastically limits the power of the state’s governor to fill vacancies that might arise in the US Senate.
Known as Senate Bill 228, the measure forces the governor to pick a successor of the same party as the departing senator — and to choose that person from a list of three names, supplied by the executive committee of the party to which the departing senator belongs. That is a major change from past Kentucky law, which allowed the governor to pick any person of any party to fill a Senate vacancy. The legislation also would force a special election to be held unless the Senate vacancy occurs within three months of a previously scheduled election.
It is lost on exactly no one that the current governor of the Commonwealth — Andy Beshear — is a Democrat. And that McConnell himself endorsed the measure.
“I have watched over my years in the Senate the way different states fill vacancies when they occur,” McConnell told a local TV station earlier this week. “And I thought the way we did it gave the governor whoever that may be, whether it’s a Democrat or Republican, too much power to put an interim appointment in there for the longest period of time.” (He also noted that he had suggested to the state legislature that they take a look at changing the law.)
After the Kentucky legislature initially passed the measure earlier this month, Beshear issued a veto — insisting that it violated the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which details how Senate vacancies should be filled.
“It delegates the power to select a representative to an unelected, unaccountable political committee that only represents a fraction of Kentuckians, when a senator is supposed to represent all of us,” said Beshear of SB 228 at the time.
Kentucky’s new law is a(nother) clear win for McConnell in the state. It comes less than six months after McConnell cruised to a 7th term over much-hyped Democratic challenger Amy McGrath — adding to his record as the longest serving senator in Kentucky history. (McConnell was first elected in 1984.)
Interestingly, McConnell’s public support to change how Kentucky fills Senate vacancies led to speculation that, at 79 years old, McConnell might be considering the possibility of leaving the world’s greatest deliberative body before his term ends at the end of 2026.
“I’m not going anywhere, I just got elected to a six-year term,” McConnell said Tuesday, however.
Kentucky is now one of 14 states that uses a special election to fill a Senate vacancy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the remaining 36, the governor appoints a replacement who serves until the next scheduled regular election.
In politics — at least in Kentucky — lots of elected officials say and do a bunch of things and, at the end, Mitch McConnell wins.