UNITED STATES NEWS

Sen. McConnell says he plans to serve his full term as leader despite questions about his health

Jul 28, 2023, 10:29 AM

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is helped by, from left, Sen. John Barr...

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, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said he is “fine” since he froze up mid-sentence in the middle of a press conference on Wednesday. And now his office is trying to tamp down speculation that he might not fill out his term as leader because of his health.

In a statement, his office said McConnell appreciates the continued support of his colleagues and “plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do.”

The statement, first reported by Politico, comes after McConnell, 81, has suffered health problems in recent months. At his weekly press conference, he froze and stared vacantly for about 20 seconds before his GOP colleagues standing behind him grabbed his elbows and asked if he wanted to go back to his office. He later returned to the news conference and answered questions as if nothing had happened.

When asked about the episode, he said he was “fine,” a statement he repeated in a hallway to reporters later that day. Neither McConnell nor his office would answer questions about whether he got medical help afterward.

Even as McConnell tried to brush off the concerns, the episode raised new questions among his colleagues about his health — and also whether McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has served as Republican leader since 2007, might soon step aside from his leadership post.

He was elected to a two-year term as leader in January by a large majority of his conference, despite an insurgent challenge from Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

In March, McConnell suffered a concussion and a broken rib after falling and hitting his head after a dinner event at a hotel. He didn’t return to the Senate for almost six weeks. He has been using a wheelchair in the airport while commuting back and forth to Kentucky. And his speech has sounded more halting in recent weeks.

But McConnell, famously reticent and often private about his personal life and health, has said very little about what is going on.

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said after Wednesday’s episode that McConnell’s job as leader calls for more transparency than it would for others.

“We should find out, you know, fairly soon what happened and how serious it is,” Cramer said. “But I don’t have to tell you, Mitch is also, as an individual, a pretty private guy. So we’ll see.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he talked to McConnell on Wednesday night and he seemed “strong and alert.” But he said what happened at the news conference on Wednesday was disturbing to watch.

“Mitch is strong, he’s stubborn as a mule,” Cruz said. “My prayers are with them. I hope that — we’re going into the August recess — I hope he has time to fully recuperate.”

GOP senators who are seen as potential successors have been cautious in their approach to questions.

“He’s fine, he’s back to work,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican and one of the senators standing behind McConnell when he froze up.

“I support Senator McConnell as long as he wants to serve as leader,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, another potential replacement.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate Republican and a former orthopedic surgeon, guided McConnell back to his office to rest during the news conference. Afterwards, he told reporters that he has been concerned since McConnell was injured earlier this year, “and I continue to be concerned.”

Barrasso then added: “I said I was concerned when he fell and hit his head a number of months ago and was hospitalized. And I think he’s made a remarkable recovery, he’s doing a great job leading our conference and was able to answer every question the press asked him today.”

Several other GOP senators projected confidence in the Republican leader.

“I do have confidence in his leadership,” said Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis. “At lunch yesterday, he spoke. He was completely on his game using numbers that were pulled out of his head and he was completely with it. So I don’t know what precipitated the freeze, but he’ll be careful to evaluate his own capabilities.”

Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall said he was “a little concerned” after the news conference.

“He said that he got a little overheated, a little dehydrated,” said Marshall, who is also a doctor. “That’s what it looks like to me. I can tell you, he’s got a strong, strong voice in our conference. He’s providing steady leadership. And I think he’s doing a great job as leader.”

McConnell had polio in his early childhood and he has long acknowledged some difficulty as an adult in climbing stairs. In addition to his fall in March, he also tripped and fell four years ago at his home in Kentucky, causing a shoulder fracture that required surgery.

The Republican leader carried on with his full schedule after the episode on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he spoke with his Republican counterpart at an event for Thursday evening for Major League Baseball owners.

“I said I’m so glad you’re here,” Schumer said. “And he made a very good speech.”

—-

Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro and AP videojournalist Mike Pesoli contributed to this report.

United States News

FILE - Protesters shout before a speaking engagement by Ben Shapiro on the campus of the University...

Associated Press

Few Americans say conservatives can speak freely on college campuses, AP-NORC/UChicago poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans view college campuses as far friendlier to liberals than to conservatives when it comes to free speech, with adults across the political spectrum seeing less tolerance for those on the right, according to a new poll. Overall, 47% of adults say liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views […]

4 hours ago

Fencer Kirsten Hawkes poses for a portrait at a fencing studio Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in San Dieg...

Associated Press

Forced kiss claim leads to ‘helplessness’ for accuser who turned to Olympics abuse-fighting agency

DENVER (AP) — When Kirsten Hawkes, a one-time elite fencer, reached out to her childhood coach for advice about starting her own fencing club, their meeting turned awkward right away. It began, she said, with an unwanted kiss on the lips when the two met at a bar during a fencing tournament in Minneapolis last […]

4 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom wait for reporters to leave the room du...

Associated Press

California governor to name Laphonza Butler, former Kamala Harris adviser, to Feinstein Senate seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a spokesman in his office said Sunday. In choosing Butler, Newsom fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman […]

5 hours ago

File - The Southern University Human Jukebox marching band warms up before the 2023 National Battle...

Associated Press

Federal student loan payments are starting again. Here’s what you need to know

Federal student loan borrowers will need to start making payments again this month after a three-year-plus pause due to the pandemic.

5 hours ago

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks in Clinton Township, Mich., Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. ...

Associated Press

Donald Trump says he will be in courtroom for New York trial scrutinizing his business practices

NEW YORK (AP) — With control over some of his most prized real estate holdings in jeopardy, former President Donald Trump says he will make a rare, voluntary trip to court Monday for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that has already resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

A woman who fled the Maui wildfire on foot has died after weeks in a hospital burn unit

HONOLULU (AP) — A woman who escaped a wildfire that destroyed Hawaii community by running through a burning field has died after spending more than seven weeks in a hospital burn unit. Laurie Allen died Friday at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, according to a gofundme page set up for her and her husband, Perry […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

...

Ability360

At Ability360, every day is Independence Day

With 100 different programs and services, more than 1,500 non-medically based home care staff, a world-renowned Sports & Fitness Center and over 15,000 people with disabilities served annually, across all ages and demographics, Ability360 is a nationwide leader in the disability community.

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Sen. McConnell says he plans to serve his full term as leader despite questions about his health