Benjamin Weiss

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senator Mitch McConnell will step down from his position as the upper chamber’s Republican leader, he said Wednesday, a move that will close out his historic run as head of the party.

McConnell, the Senate minority leader, announced his decision during remarks on the Senate floor. The Kentucky Republican, who turned 82 last week, told colleagues that he will vacate party leadership in November.

“One of life’s most unappreciated callings is knowing when it is time to move on to life’s next chapter,” McConnell said, adding that he had long envisioned standing down as party leader in “a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work — a moment when I’m certain I have helped to preserve the ideals I so strongly believe.”

Although he plans to leave party leadership after November’s election, McConnell signaled that his time as Kentucky’s senior senator would continue.

“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon,” he said, assuring his colleagues that he plans to “finish the job that the people of Kentucky hired me to do.”

McConnell has previously said that he would not retire from the Senate before 2026.

The minority leader was sure to point out that, even though he plans to step aside, he will continue pressing hard on Republican policy priorities in his remaining months at the party’s helm.

“There are many challenges we must meet to deliver for the American people,” he said, “and each will have my full effort and retention. I still have enough gas in my tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics, and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm with which they have become accustomed.”

McConnell has served as one of Kentucky’s two senators since 1985. The lawmaker holds the record for longest stint as Senate party leader in U.S. history — he became head of the Senate Republican conference in 2007, serving as the upper chamber’s minority leader until 2015.

McConnell was also Senate majority leader under the Trump administration and retained his role in the current GOP minority.

During his decades of service, McConnell has gained a reputation as a staunch conservative and shrewd political operator, helping in recent years to enact a landmark tax bill and pushing three Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices through the Senate.

Despite that, the lawmaker has also garnered criticism for clinging to Republican leadership.

Questions about McConnell’s age and acuity resurfaced last year after the lawmaker had a pair of public gaffes during which he appeared to freeze for several seconds while answering questions from reporters. Those unusual incidents occurred months after the party leader was hospitalized with a head injury following a fall. McConnell and his staff insisted at the time that he was in good health.