Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told reporters there was no need to discuss a replacement for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose age and health have sparked concern, because he believed the senator would serve out his term.
In the event that a Senate seat becomes vacant before the end of a term, states generally have laws that allow the governor to choose the replacement, as per the U.S. Constitution’s 17th Amendment. In Kentucky, the governor would need to choose from a list of three candidates made by the state executive committee of the same party as the senator who left his seat.
“There is no Senate vacancy,” the governor told reporters Thursday. “Senator McConnell has said he’s going to serve out his term, and I believe him, so I’m not going to speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”
Senate Minority Leader McConnell recently froze for half a minute during a press conference, the second time in just over a month.
The Aug. 30 freezing incident had come after a reporter asked whether he was considering reelection, in 2026. The reporter repeated the question, garnering only a “That’s a…” response from the senator before a staffer stepped in and asked, “Did you hear the question, senator, about running for reelection in 2026?”
Moments later, he commented that the Kentucky governor’s race in November would be a close one, and declined to comment on former President Donald Trump’s latest indictment.
The senator had suffered a fall in March, which gave him a concussion, and led to speculation about whether he is still experiencing its ill effects several months later.
After both instances, aides told reporters that the senator had been feeling lightheaded momentarily, and was fine.
But the repeat incidents have led to debate over age limits for those holding public office, and whether the Senate Republican Leader should be removed from leadership, if he would not retire.
One day after the most recent incident, Congressional Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan said he had met with Mr. McConnell and found him fit for duty.
“I have consulted with Leader McConnell and conferred with his neurology team. After evaluating yesterday’s incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned,” Dr. Monahan explained in a short statement, reiterating the aides’ explanations that Mr. McConnell was lightheaded.
“Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration.”
Mr. McConnell had announced that he would not step down, after the first freezing incident the end of June.
“Leader McConnell appreciates the continued support of his colleagues, and plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do,” a spokesperson said in a statement put out in the media.
He had won reelection for the Senate seat by a landslide, with about 400,000 votes more than Democrat Amy McGrath in the 2020 race.
President Joe Biden told reporters on Aug. 31 that he had no doubts about Mr. McConnell’s ability to continue in his leadership role in the Senate.
“I spoke to him today. He was his old self on the telephone,” said the president, who, like Mr. McConnell, is 81 years old.
Polls have shown that the president’s own age is a big issue for voters, as he seeks reelection.
A poll in July found the majority of voters, including half of Democrats surveyed, said President Biden was too old for the Oval Office.
“I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people. And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office. And I think I’ve proven myself to be honorable as well as also effective,” President Biden said in May after reporters questioned him about public sentiment about his age in the polls. He has multiple times brushed off the issue of age, though it has been longstanding. In February, the White House physician issued a summary and declared the president “fit for duty.”
His likely opponent, GOP frontrunner and former president Trump, is 77. He has likewise dismissed age concerns, while still criticizing President Biden’s abilities.
“President Biden is one of the oldest 79s in History, but by and of itself, he is not an old man. There are many people in their 80s, and even 90s, that are as good and sharp as ever.”
“Biden is not one of them, but it has little to do with his age,” he wrote in a post on Truth Social. “In actuality, life begins at 80!”