Elaine Chao, 69, served as the US secretary of transportation under former President Donald Trump.
She previously served as US secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009. Chao moved to the US from Taiwan at age 8 and grew up in New York, according to ABC News.
McConnell and Chao met through a mutual friend, Stuart Bloch, in Washington, DC in the early 1990s.
According to The New York Times, Bloch and McConnell met in the 1960s. Bloch was married to Julia Chang Bloch, who was a mentor of Chao’s.
Bloch invited McConnell to a candlelit dinner with Chao, and the couple hit it off right away.
“I don’t want to say that sparks flew,” Bloch told The New York Times in 2014, “because that’s not the way either of them is.”
They married on February 6, 1993, in a private ceremony in the chapel of the US Capitol.
They chose that wedding date for three reasons, according to The Washington Post: It’s Ronald Reagan’s birthday, it was just before Chao’s 40th birthday, and it was right before a one-week Senate recess.
McConnell was previously married and has three children from that relationship.
McConnell’s first wife, Sherrill Redmon, went on to become a feminist scholar. The two divorced in 1980.
In 1998, the couple told The Washington Post how they divide household labor.
McConnell cooked once in a while and did the laundry; Chao was responsible for fixing things around the house, the Post reported.
Chao has often campaigned with her husband, becoming known as the “campaign hugger,” according to Time.
McConnell had polio as a child and finds backslapping painful, so Chao has stepped in to hug constituents in his stead.
“She very actively listens. She really pays attention and remembers details about people,” Kelly Westwood, head of the Kenton County women’s Republican group, told Time in 2014. “She doesn’t see them for months and then says, ‘I know you sprained your arm, how’s it going?’ Or, ‘How’s you bid for city council going?’ She remembers everything.”
Chao also starred in campaign ads defending McConnell’s record on women’s issues, for which she received some pushback.
Chao appeared in a 2014 campaign ad touting McConnell as a co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act in 1991, which is accurate. But, as Talking Points Memo pointed out, McConnell also voted against the final legislation in 1993 and its reauthorizations in 2012 and 2013.
In 2017, when then-President Donald Trump criticized McConnell on Twitter, Chao responded by telling reporters: “I stand by my man — both of them.”
After McConnell said the White House had “excessive expectations” for Congress, Trump took to Twitter to respond.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” he wrote, according to CNN.
Trump tweeted again the following day: “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!”
Reporters asked Chao, who had attended an infrastructure meeting at Trump Tower, what she thought of Trump’s comments. She replied: “I stand by my man — both of them.”
The Washington Post reported that McConnell’s wealth had increased sevenfold in 10 years, from $3.1 million in 2004 to $22.8 million in 2014.
The Post reported that McConnell’s net worth increased due to an inheritance the couple received after Chao’s mother passed away in 2007.
In November, McConnell voted against protections for interracial and same-sex marriages in the Respect for Marriage Act, despite being in an interracial marriage himself.
The Respect for Marriage Act would codify same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law, requiring states to recognize marriages that were valid in the state where they were performed. McConnell was among 37 Republicans who voted against the bill, while 12 GOP Senators and all Democrats voted in support.
Chao was the first Asian woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet.
On March 8, McConnell was hospitalized after he tripped and fell at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington, DC.
“This evening, Leader McConnell tripped at a local hotel during a private dinner. He has been admitted to the hospital where he is receiving treatment,” a spokesperson for McConnell told Insider’s Matthew Loh on Wednesday evening.
Further details on McConnell’s injury or prognosis have not been released.
McConnell previously fractured his shoulder in 2019 after tripping on the patio of his Kentucky residence.