“I’m going to finish my term as leader, and I’m going to finish my Senate term,” Sen McConnell said on Wednesday. His leadership post ends at the end of 2024. He is the longest serving party leader in US history.
The Kentucky Republican recently suffered two episodes in which he appeared to freeze up at public speaking events.
On 26 July, he fell silent at a press briefing on Capitol Hill before being escorted away. Similarly, on 30 August, he paused when asked a question at a press event in Kentucky. On both occasions, Mr McConnell’s aides remained calm and assisted the senate leader.
A reporter also asked Mr McConnell on Wednesday about the “precise medical reason” for the freezes, to which he pointed to the report by attending congressional physician Dr Brian Monahan.
The report, addressed to Mr McConnell on 5 September, said that after his freezing episode on 30 August, the doctor conducted “several medical evaluations: brain MRI imaging, EEG study and consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment.”
Dr Monahan continued: “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.”
In March, Mr McConnell fell and hit his head, causing a concussion and fractured a rib, sending him to the hospital for several days.
Some Republican colleagues have expressed concern over Mr McConnell’s health — and over the congressional physician’s report.
Fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said in the wake of the report’s release: “I’ve practiced medicine for 25 years and it doesn’t look like dehydration to me … It looks like a focal neurologic event.”
Firebrand Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene grouped Mr McConnell with other ageing politicians, writing on X after the Kentucky senator’s latest freezing episode: “Biden, McConnell, Feinstein, and Fetterman are examples of people who are not fit for office and it’s time to be serious about it.”
She continued, “These politician’s staff and family members should be ashamed of themselves by enabling and allowing their loved ones to remain in office all to hold power. We are talking about our country’s national security and it’s all at stake!”
Aside from the recent freezing episodes, Mr McConnell has suffered from a number of health issues over the years, including his childhood polio, a 2003 triple bypass heart surgery, a 2019 fall in his home, an unidentified discolouration of his hand in 2020, and the March fall.
After his second freeze in August, CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, remarked that his aides didn’t appear too worried. “You got the impression this happens much more often [because] they didn’t seem particularly alarmed by it,” he noted. “If the aides are not surprised by this, his doctors may not be surprised either. These types of things may be happening more often.”
Dr Gupta also added that Mr McConnell’s falls could be connected to his freezing episodes.
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