Some Republicans are saying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should not be holding his leadership position following rising ‘doubts’ about his health status after he experienced a second ‘freeze-up’ incident last week.
McConnell’s health has been under increasing scrutiny following his second public freeze-up in recent weeks during a press conference in Kentucky where he didn’t respond for 30 seconds after being asked if he would run for reelection in 2026.
The episode mirrored the senator’s first freezing event that occurred at a July press conference in the Capitol. It also comes just months after McConnell suffered a concussion and broken rib when he tripped and hit his head at the D.C. Waldorf Astoria and was admitted to hospital for treatment.
Now, some Republicans are publicly questioning McConnell’s health status and ability to lead as the Senate returns to the Capitol after a 40-day recess hiatus.
McConnell himself said Wednesday that he has ‘no plans’ to step down and will finish his term as GOP leader and his Senate term as well.
The GOP leader cited the Capitol physician’s statement from Tuesday that there was ‘no evidence’ that he suffered a stroke or seizure or has a ‘movement disorder’ – saying he had nothing to add beyond that.
Earlier Wednesday, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he ‘absolutely’ doesn’t believe McConnell is the right lawmaker to lead the Republican Party as they try to take back control of the Senate in 2024.
He told reporters: ‘Is he able to do the job? I mean, he’s going to have to answer that question. Do I think he should be a leader? No.’
Hawley was one of a handful of Republicans who did not vote for McConnell to become minority leader at the end of 2022. The other defectors included Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Mike Braun, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul and Rick Scott.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber as he returns to work at the Capitol
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves his Washington house to return to the U.S. Senate, less than a week after he froze for more than 30 seconds while speaking to reporters
‘I don’t think you can have it both ways,’ he continued addressing his other GOP colleagues’ commitment to standing behind McConnell after his health scare, while questioning 80-year-old President Biden’s health and mental acuity.
The GOP leadership has put the full weight of their support behind McConnell.
Sen. John Thune, R-N.D., who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Tuesday that he fully backs McConnell continuing to serve as leader.
On Tuesday, the Capitol physician shut down speculation over the cause of the freezes.
Dr Brian Monahan said there was ‘no evidence’ that McConnell suffered a stroke or seizure or has a ‘movement disorder’ such as Parkinson’s disease, according to a letter publicized by the minority leader’s office on Tuesday ahead of his return.
The physician said he consulted with neurologists and examined McConnell’s MRIs and an EEG study in making his determination. As a result, he writes that there are ‘no changes in recommended treatment protocols’ since the senator’s fall and concussion in March.
The minority leader’s office said last week that he was just feeling ‘lightheaded’ and assured he would consult a doctor as a precautionary measure.
Dr. Monahan cleared McConnell to continue working, saying the episode could be attributed to dehydration and that it’s normal to experience lightheadedness during concussion recovery.
The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, pushed back on his assessment, saying dehydration is not a ‘valid’ diagnosis.
‘Everybody’s seen the clips, it’s not a valid medical diagnosis for people to say that’s dehydration,’ Paul, who worked in medicine for 25 years as an eye doctor, said Tuesday.
‘Somebody ought to wake up and say wow, this looks like seizure.’
However, not all are concerned.
‘He’s a fine leader. If he has a hangnail, I don’t need to know about it,’ said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
‘The reality is that we may expect that Mitch McConnell will check out for 20 seconds a day, but the other 86,380 seconds on the day he does a pretty darn good job.’
Senators will reconvened on Tuesday for the first time since the end of July.
McConnell made remarks on the Senate floor, but did not directly address his health challenges, only making a passing reference.
At Wednesday’s GOP lunch, the leader talked about his health history in more depth with members of his caucus.
According to Sen. John Kennedy, McConnell explained that he’s ‘no stranger’ to health problems, which started when he had polio as a child.
The leader said he’s only had ‘two of these brain freeze moments’ and has been checked out by specialists in D.C. and elsewhere who have given him a ‘clean bill of health.’
‘I take him at his word. regardless of what we all think the truth is, and what I’ve tried to explain to my friends in the press, the only person in the milky way who can make Mitch McConnell step down is Mitch McMonnell.’
‘It will happen when you see donkeys fly,’ Kennedy, R-La., continued in an interview on Fox News following the lunch.
He faced tougher questioning by the Capitol Hill press corps later Wednesday at the weekly GOP press conference, but said he has no plans to retire and reiterated that the Capitol physician cleared him.
The Senate has a busy few weeks ahead as government funding is set to run out by Oct. 1.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has stated his plan to move forward a series of spending bills over the next several weeks.
But the House of Representatives is not set to return to D.C. until next Tuesday, not leaving much time to get a deal done and starve off a government shutdown.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has floated the idea of a one-month short-term funding bill, but he is receiving push back from farther right members of his conference.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., is also continuing his blockade on military appointments – which sparked a rare public rebuke from the secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy in an op-ed this week calling it a ‘dangerous hold.’
The House minority leader made a series of calls to his Senate allies following the latest troubling episode, DailyMail.com confirmed last week.
It was an apparent effort to assure them of his stable health and drum up support as worries intensify.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune’s spokesperson Ryan Wrasse confirmed to DailyMail.com that the Minority Whip spoke with McConnell and the leader ‘sounded like his usual self and was in good spirits.’
A spokesperson for Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., did not confirm that a call took place between the senators, but said they were aware of reports that the two spoke.
McConnell told Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that he is doing well when the two spoke after the incident on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the senator confirmed to DailyMail.com.
The GOP senators, known as the ‘Three Johns,’ are also next in line to replace the minority leader in the event that he steps down or is unfit to serve.
The very swift all-clear comes as reports emerge that a handful of Republican senators are discussing holding a meeting amid McConnell’s declining health.
It does not appear that party leadership is involved in these alleged talks.
At least a dozen GOP offices said when reached by DailyMail.com last week that they are not aware of any meetings on the topic.
The latest episode has led to renewed calls for term limits in the House and Senate – even from those within the walls of Congress.
GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley called the Senate the ‘most privileged nursing home in the country’ after McConnell’s recent episode.
‘What I will say is, right now, the Senate is the most privileged nursing home in the country,’ she said last week. ‘I mean, Mitch McConnell has done some great things and he deserves credit. But you have to know when to leave.’
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., said the limits would help restore ‘human decency’ for elderly politicians like McConnell and Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, who is also suffering public health scares.
Sen. Josh Hawley , R-Mo., said Wednesday he ‘absolutely’ doesn’t believe McConnell is the right lawmaker to lead the Republican Party as they try to take back control of the Senate in 2024
McConnell returned to work in the Senate Tuesday after a 40-day recess hiatus
McConnell entered his U.S. Capitol Police SUV as he leaves his Washington house to return to work in the Senate Tuesday
Senate Republican Mitch McConnell appears to freeze up for more than 30 seconds during a public appearance in Kentucky last week
McConnell also froze mid-press conference while speaking just off the Senate floor in July, requiring assistance from fellow lawmakers to walk him back to his office
‘For goodness sake, the family, friends, and staff of Senators Feinstein and McConnell are doing them and our country a tremendous disservice,’ Phillips wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
‘It’s time for term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, and some basic human decency.’
His criticism of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein comes after the 90-year-old was hospitalized earlier this month following a trip and fall at her home in San Francisco.
She was released after tests showed she was fine, but the latest health incident raised more questions about her ability to carry out her duties as a senator.
Her many absences since the start of the year have hampered the majority Democrats’ ability to move nominations through the Judiciary Committee.