Mitch McConnell vows to serve out full Senate term following questions over his health

The senator insisted he was ‘fine’ following his health incident on Wednesday

Graig Graziosi
Friday 28 July 2023 19:45 BST
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Related video: Moment Mitch McConnell freezes mid-press conference

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will reportedly serve out the remainder of his term, a position his office made clear after a health scare earlier this week.

"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 spokesman for the senator told Politico.

Mr McConnell froze up during a press briefing on Wednesday, and spent approximately half a minute silently staring into the crowd of reporters mid-sentence before he was escorted away from the podium.

The senator later returned to the podium, where reporters asked him to explain what had just happened. He insisted that he was "fine."

When he was asked if he was fully able to do his job, Mr McConnell simply replied "yeah."

The incident led to questions in the press and on social media about Mr McConnell's health, prompting the statement from his office.

Mr McConnell's two-year term ends in January 2025. He defeated Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in 2020, and won another six-year term.

It is unclear if he will seek re-election once his term expires. Earlier this year he became the longest-serving Senate party leader in US history.

Mr McConnell's episode on Wednesday is the latest in a series of health incidents this year. In March he was hospitalised after a fall that left him with a concussion and a minor rib fracture. Though he was released after several days, he did not return to the Senate until mid-April.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is helped by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, after the 81-year-old GOP leader froze at the microphones as he arrived for a news conference
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is helped by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, after the 81-year-old GOP leader froze at the microphones as he arrived for a news conference (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Then, earlier this month, he fell at an airport in Washington DC, but was not seriously injured.

No Republican lawmakers have called for Mr McConnell to step down and most have expressed their support for the minority leader.

“I don’t know how much longer he will want to serve, but I support him as long as he wants the job,” Senator John Cornyn said after the incident.

However, some have expressed privately that they noted a change in Mr McConnell following his concussion.

One GOP senator conceded that while Mr McConnell is still "intellectually sharp" on many issues "including baseball," they were concerned that he was having cognitive issues.

"People think that he's not hearing well," the anonymous senator told NBC News. "I think that he is just not processing."

Another anonymous Republican lawmaker told NBC News that they were not sure if Mr McConnell should seek office beyond his current term.

“I’d hate to see it forced on him,” the senator said. “You can do these things with dignity, or it becomes less dignified. And I hope he does it in a dignified way – for his own legacy and reputation.”

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