Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnellReuters

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Wednesday that he will step down as GOP leader in November.

He said he will continue to serve in the US Senate but will allow “the next generation of leadership” to take the helm of the Senate Republican Conference, according to CNN.

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, said, “The end of my contributions are closer than I prefer.”

“As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said in his floor remarks. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. That day arrived today.”

He received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) approached him afterwards to shake his hand. He was followed by many of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle.

McConnell’s health has been in the headlines over the past year, having experienced two episodes where he briefly appeared to freeze up while speaking with reporters.

Following the first incident, McConnell’s office said he has no plans to step down, noting McConnell appreciates the continued support of his colleagues and “plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do.”

In his remarks on on Wednesday, McConnell said his decision to step down came following the death of his wife Elaine Chao’s youngest sister, Angela, in a traffic accident earlier this month.

“As some of you may know, this has been a particularly difficult time for my family. We tragically lost Elaine’s younger sister, Angela, just a few weeks ago. When you lose a loved one, particularly at a young age, there’s a certain introspection that accompanies the grieving process. Perhaps it is God’s way of reminding you of your own life’s journey to reprioritize the impact of the world that we will all inevitably leave behind,” he said.

According to CNN, the three Senate Republicans who are most closely-watched as potential successors to McConnell are known on Capitol Hill as the “three Johns” — South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.