Barrasso Said To Be Lobbying For McConnell’s Leadership Seat

Speculation in Washington is that U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is lobbying hard to become Senate Minority Leader If beleaguered Mitch McConnell steps down.

Leo Wolfson

April 14, 20234 min read

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There is chatter on Capitol Hill that Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. Barrasso is lobbying to become Minority Floor Leader in the event that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., steps down from the role. Barrasso is currently the No. 3 ranking member of  Senate Republican leadership. 

McConnell fell at a dinner event for the Senate Leadership Fund on March 8. He suffered a concussion, and after being treated at a hospital and his home, rumors started to arise that he might be unable to return to the Senate. 

In a Thursday Truth Press story, the news organization reported that Barrasso is one of three senators “actively reaching out to fellow Republican senators in efforts to prepare for an anticipated leadership vote.” 

In the event that McConnell retires from his duties as leader, a vote to choose a new leader would take place almost immediately within the Senate. 

A spokesperson for Barrasso told Cowboy State Daily he will continue to serve the Republican Conference “wherever his colleagues believe he is most effective.”

“Senator Barrasso is grateful to serve Wyoming in the United States Senate as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as Conference Chairman,” said Laura Mengelkamp, Barrasso’s communication director.

If Barrasso were to be named Minority Leader, it would be the highest position achieved by a Wyoming senator. Former Senator Al Simpson currently owns this watermark, serving as majority and minority whip, considered the second-ranking position in the Senate. 

Former congresswoman Liz Cheney also held a No. 3 ranking position in the U.S. House until she started criticizing former President Donald Trump. Republican leadership stripped of her leadership positions and she lost her 2022 reelection bid. 


Barrasso has remained consistently loyal to McConnell during his time in the Senate. So loyal in fact, that he drew criticism from some Wyoming Republicans when he stood behind McConnell as the Minority Floor Leader announced his support for gun control legislation last summer. 

In November 2022, Barrasso denied a request made by some Republicans like Sen. Cynthia Lummis to delay the party’s leadership elections until after the Georgia runoff election was completed and a clearer view of the party’s long-term future emerged. 

A​​lthough Barrasso has won all his elections by landslide margins, during the state GOP convention in 2022, he received a few catcalls from the audience while giving a speech. A month earlier, he received a letter of reprimand from the Park County Republican Party for voting to support a $1.5 trillion government spending bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States. 

In 2022, Trump actively campaigned to have McConnell ousted as leader and blamed him for the party’s disappointing 2022 midterm performance. 

During a January radio interview, Trump described Barrasso as a “rubber stamp” for McConnell. 

“I sort of think he’s a good man, but he turned out to be really a flunky for Mitch McConnell,” he said. 

Long Term Health Still A Question 

McConnell diffused some of the speculation about this topic on Thursday, when he announced on Twitter that he would be returning to the Senate next week. 

But this announcement does not quell speculation about the Kentucky senator’s long-term health. McConnell is 81, the fourth oldest serving U.S. senator. He also suffered a fractured shoulder during a fall in August 2019. 

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter