The health of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has raised concerns once again after he experienced a second episode of freezing up during a press conference. This incident has prompted calls for his resignation from some House members, pundits, and prominent political figures. As the cause of these episodes remains a mystery and his office provides little information, worries about McConnell’s fitness continue to grow.
A Troubling Pattern Emerges
In a press conference held in Covington, Kentucky, McConnell, 81, appeared to freeze up for nearly 30 seconds when a reporter asked about his thoughts on running for re-election. This incident marked the second time McConnell experienced such an episode, following a similar occurrence during a press conference in July. On both occasions, McConnell’s office attributed his condition to feeling “momentarily lightheaded.” However, these explanations have done little to allay concerns.
While two House GOP members, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), have called for McConnell’s resignation following the recent incident, no senators or prominent Republican officials have joined in these calls. McConnell’s allies have come to his defense, with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) expressing his expectation that McConnell will continue to serve as the Republican leader. Similarly, Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) confirmed that McConnell seemed his usual self and was in good spirits after the episode.
Outside of Congress, some Republican political figures and pundits have joined the chorus calling for McConnell’s resignation. GOP pollster Frank Luntz, appearing on CNN, suggested that it may be time for McConnell to pass on the torch to another generation. Luntz criticized the response from McConnell’s office as insufficient, adding to the concerns surrounding McConnell’s fitness for leadership.
Over the past few years, McConnell has faced several health issues, including multiple falls and a concussion earlier this year that led to a six-week absence from the Senate. McConnell has also fallen at an airport and during a trip to Finland. In 2019, he fractured his shoulder after falling outside his home in Louisville. Having survived polio as a child, McConnell underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2003. These incidents, combined with his recent freeze-ups, have raised concerns about his overall health and ability to fulfill his duties effectively.
According to Politico, Congress does not have a mechanism in place for replacing a Senate leader. However, if a group of five senators were to express a lack of confidence in McConnell, it could lead to a conference to consider the issue. Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) resigned as majority leader in 2002 amidst backlash over racially insensitive remarks. If McConnell were to resign, the executive committee of Kentucky’s Republican party would recommend three potential replacements for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to choose from.
The cause of McConnell’s apparent health episodes remains unknown. After the first freeze-up incident in July, neurologists speculated that he may have experienced a stroke or mini seizure. However, McConnell’s office has declined to provide any details. It was announced that McConnell plans to see a doctor before his next public event, suggesting a potential investigation into his health.
As concerns over McConnell’s health continue to mount, the Senate Minority Leader’s fitness for office has come under scrutiny. While some House members, pundits, and political figures have called for his resignation, McConnell’s allies maintain their support. With the cause of his freeze-ups still uncertain, the future of McConnell’s leadership role remains uncertain as well.