Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) responded to a question from The Epoch Times by saying that he has no plans to step down, despite recent health concerns.
Mr. McConnell fielded questions from reporters on Sept. 6 about a number of topics facing the GOP and, eventually, his health issues.
When asked by The Epoch Times about calls for him to step down, he said, “I’m going to finish my Senate term.”
Mr. McConnell’s health has been at the forefront of the conversation about the minority leader because of a fall in March and two recent on-camera “freezing” incidents in front of reporters. Congressional Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan has released two statements about the 81-year-old Kentucky Republican, saying, among other things, that Mr. McConnell was cleared to continue working in the Senate and to keep his travel schedule.
When pressed by reporters, Mr. McConnell said he thought that Dr. Monahan’s report would answer any “reasonable concerns” that anyone might have about his health.
McConnell’s Medical Reports
Dr. Monahan’s statement (pdf) on Aug. 31, one day after the senator’s second freezing incident, reads: “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.
“Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration.”
A Sept. 5 (pdf) report to Mr. McConnell from Dr. Monahan further clarified that he didn’t suffer a seizure when he froze up in front of reporters.
“My examination of you following your Aug. 30, 2023, brief episode included several medical evaluations: brain MRI imaging, EEG study, and consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment,” Dr. Monahan wrote.
“There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA, or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease. There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 fall.”
The Epoch Times was later told by an aide that Mr. McConnell was “momentarily lightheaded,” which caused him to pause during the event.
“While he feels fine, as a prudential measure, the leader will be consulting a physician prior to his next event,” the aide said.
Later on Aug. 30, the minority leader was photographed at an event with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who’s running for Senate in Indiana.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who’s also a physician, called the health assessment into question, telling a group of reporters on Sept. 5: “I’ve practiced medicine for 25 years, and it doesn’t look like dehydration to me. It looks like a focal neurologic event.
“That doesn’t mean it’s incapacitating, doesn’t mean he can’t serve. But it means that somebody ought to wake up and say, ‘Wow, this looks like a seizure.'”
That event came five weeks after the first time the lawmaker “froze,” on July 26 during a press conference following the weekly Senate GOP policy luncheon.
Mr. McConnell was escorted away from the podium but returned shortly thereafter, and when asked about his condition, he said he was “fine.”
A McConnell aide later told The Epoch Times that Mr. McConnell, who’s in his seventh term in the Senate, “felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment” and “came back to handle Q&A, which, as everyone observed, was sharp.”
Mr. McConnell, who survived polio as a child, suffered a concussion and broken ribs in March when he fell at an event in Washington. He was hospitalized, went through therapy after the fall, and returned to the Senate the following month.
According to The Hill, Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), who’s speculated to be a contender for a potential Republican leader’s position, said he completely supports Mr. McConnell’s continued leadership, a stance shared by other Republican senators. But Mr. Thune declined to speculate on Mr. McConnell’s future beyond the 2024 election.
Mr. Thune said last week that he had “a couple of conversations” with Mr. McConnell, who “sounded great.”
When asked whether he would support Mr. McConnell’s continuing as a leader beyond the next election, Mr. Thune said, “That’s so far out there I don’t even want to start speculating about that, but he has my full support, and he’ll have the support of the conference.”
On Aug. 31, President Joe Biden, who will turn 81 later this year, said he isn’t concerned about Mr. McConnell’s ability to serve.
“I spoke to him today. He was his old self on the telephone,” the president told reporters at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.