Republican senators considering extra leadership meeting after McConnell’s second freeze, report says

‘If a handful goes down that path, it will be a rerun of the last time,’ GOP senator says in reference to past failure to take down McConnell

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 31 August 2023 20:09 BST
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Related video: Mitch McConnell appears to freeze again as he is asked about running for re-election

A number of Republican senators are considering a push for a debate on their leadership after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze up during a press conference for the second time within a month, a report has alleged.

Politico reports that Republicans have discussed the idea of having a larger conversation on the subject when they get back to Washington, DC next week.

Meanwhile, the Senate doctor has given the Kentucky senator a clean bill of health.

The leadership of the party is at this time not a part of the discussions and nothing has been decided so far, the outlet reported, citing an anonymous source.

Only five Republicans are required to force a special conference meeting – the most direct process for a conversation on the condition of the leader to take place.

This comes after Mr McConnell froze in front of the cameras for about 30 seconds on Wednesday, once again prompting concerns about his health.

Senate Republicans also have private lunches two or three times a week where they can discuss their leadership without calling for a special session.

The leader’s health is a sensitive subject he doesn’t like to discuss. Now 81 years old and the longest-serving Senate leader in the history of the chamber, even his critics are sensitive to his health problems following a fall in March when he suffered a concussion.

Republicans will have to decide if Mr McConnell’s health is enough to speed up a leadership change that has to take place at some point.

Last autumn, Mr McConnell was challenged for the first time, but he roundly beat Florida Senator Rick Scott’s leadership challenge with a vote of 37 to 10.

If a special conference doesn’t take place, the issue could be pushed until after the 2024 election but a special session would prompt substantial media coverage with increased focus on the sensitive issue of Mr McConnell’s leadership.

The Office of Attending Physician at the US Capitol said in a statement on Thursday: “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.”

“If a handful goes down that path, it will be a rerun of the last time,” an anonymous Republican senator told Politico in reference to Mr Scott’s failure to take down Mr McConnell.

Mr McConnell hasn’t indicated when he intends to step down or leave the Senate, but a spokesperson said after his July freeze that he was set to serve out his leadership term which ends in 2024. His current Senate term ends two years later in 2026.

Among Republican senators, the most likely candidates to take the helm after the Kentucky senator includes Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, former member of Senate leadership John Cornyn of Texas, and Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming.

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Mr McConnell was his “old self on the telephone” after they spoke.

He added that Mr McConnell’s episodes are a common symptom for someone recovering from a concussion.

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