McConnell vows to finish Senate term and remain GOP leader after freezing episodes


Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has no plans to step down from the Senate or as the Republican leader as he faces questions about his health following two public episodes in which he froze in recent weeks.

“I have no announcements to make,” the 81-year-old told reporters on Wednesday about his future in the Senate. “I am going to finish my term as leader and I’m going to finish my Senate term.” 

The longtime Kentucky senator was reelected in 2020 to a term ending in 2027. Senate leadership elections occur every two years, and McConnell has led the Republican conference since 2007, most recently winning the endorsement of his colleagues last November. He was absent for several weeks earlier this year after suffering a concussion and fracturing a rib in a fall.

At the Capitol, McConnell declined to give more information about his health, saying he didn’t have anything more to add than the details provided Tuesday by the attending physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan. 

“I think Dr. Monahan covered the subject,” McConnell said. “I think it should answer any reasonable question.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the Capitol on Sept. 6, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the Capitol on Sept. 6, 2023, in Washington, D.C. 

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

In a letter released Tuesday, Monahan said McConnell showed “no evidence” that he suffered a seizure disorder, stroke or Parkinson’s disease during the freezing episodes, citing test results and consultations with several neurologists. 

“Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration,” Monahan said in a separate letter after the second episode. McConnell’s office has attributed the health episodes to lightheadedness. 

After their weekly closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans said McConnell addressed the episodes, telling them it has only happened twice.

“He indicated he’s had two of these episodes, and both of them happened to be [at] two press conferences,” Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told reporters Wednesday. 

Senators did not have an opportunity to ask McConnell questions about his health, according to Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. 

McConnell has maintained the support of his Republican colleagues, who have expressed confidence in recent days of his ability to do his job. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina told reporters that McConnell has “broad support.” 

“I feel good,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “I think most of us are in a good spot with Mitch.” 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama suggested McConnell would resign if he felt his health was an issue. 

“He would do the right thing, if he felt like he couldn’t do it,” Tuberville said. “Because it’s getting ready to be a very tough election year. Any leader has got to be out there going, raising money, doing all that. So he convinced me.” 

On Tuesday, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky questioned whether McConnell was being transparent about his health issues, but said the episodes didn’t disqualify him from continuing to serve.

“With my medical background, this is not dehydration,” he said, suggesting McConnell had a seizure. “There’s something else going on.”

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