07 September 2023

McConnell adamant he will finish his term after health scares

07 September 2023

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has brushed off questions about his health, reiterating his plans to finish his term in office.

The 81-year-old sought to reassure colleagues he is still up to the job in a lunch with senators on Wednesday after freezing at two news conferences.

A statement by attending physician Brian P Monahan, released by Mr McConnell’s office, ruled out any evidence of a stroke or seizure disorder. The Kentucky senator fell and suffered from a concussion earlier this year.

Dismissing questions about his health, Mr McConnell told reporters: “I’m going to finish my term as leader and I’m going to finish my Senate term.”

Behind closed doors, Mr McConnell told other Republicans his health issues are linked to his concussion.

Texas senator John Cornyn said Mr McConnell “hasn’t missed a step” in terms of his cognitive abilities or ability to lead.

“He was more transparent, which I’m glad he did,” Mr Cornyn said of the leader’s comments at the private lunch. “This is not his style. But I don’t think keeping things close to the vest serves his interests and it created a lot of speculation. So I think this is a positive development.”

Other Republican senators also said they were satisfied with Mr McConnell’s explanation for the two incidents, the first in Washington in July and the second in Kentucky last week.

North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer, who had called for more transparency from Mr McConnell, said the remarks were “a strong message. It was confident on his part. It was very direct.”

The letter from Dr Monahan, which was released on Tuesday said there is “no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack or brief stroke) or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease.”

The doctor said the assessments entailed several medical evaluations, including a brain MRI scan and “consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment”, but there was no elaboration as to what cause the episodes.

First elected to the Senate in 1984 and as leader in 2007, Mr McConnell became the longest-serving Senate party leader in January. He would have to run again for leader after next year’s elections and his next re-election to the Senate would be in 2026.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox