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Mitch McConnell’s GOP colleagues have ‘grown alarmed’ about aging senator’s health

GOP lawmakers are questioning whether Mr McConnell can see out his Senate term

Bevan Hurley
Monday 14 August 2023 16:52 BST
Mitch McConnell booed, heckled and told to 'retire' during Kentucky event

Republican lawmakers are privately expressing their “alarm” at Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s declining health after a series of recent falls.

Mr McConnell froze for 20 seconds during a press conference on 26 July, prompting fears the 81-year-old had suffered a medical event.

It was later revealed that Mr McConnell had suffered three falls in the preceding months, including two previously undisclosed incidents.

Mr McConnell’s GOP colleagues are becoming increasingly concerned at how quickly he has aged, according to Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

One GOP lawmaker told Politico that they had spoken to a member of Mr McConnell’s staff about whether he should consider hearing implants, after he appeared unable to follow conversation at a recent Senate Republican lunch.

Mr Martin, who has covered the Kentucky senator for years, wrote that it was “jarring to see his decline”.

Politico reported that Mr McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had to help him up from his chair during an appearance at the annual Fancy Farm picnic in Kentucky on 5 August.

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, center, is helped by, Senator John Barrasso and Senator Joni Ernst (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hecklers interrupted Mr McConnell’s speech with boos and jeers, and called for him to retire.

“This is my 28th Fancy Farm, and I want to assure you, it’s not my last,” Mr McConnell told the audience, playing down health concerns.

Ms Chao has become a “forceful” protector of the Senate leader and keeps a close eye on him at public events, Politico noted.

Mr McConnell has insisted he will remain in his leadership position and serve out his full six-year term which ends in 2027.

Unlike President Joe Biden, whose every slip and gaffe is widely covered, Mr McConnell’s health issues have largely remained out of sight.

That was until 26 July, when Mr McConnell had to be helped by fellowsenators after he appeared unable to speak for about 20 seconds at a Senate Republican press conference.

Mr McConnell returned a few minutes later, and insisted he was fine.

In March, Mr McConnell took six weeks away from the Senate after suffering a concussion and fractured a rib when he fell and hit his head after a dinner event at a hotel earlier this year. He was hospitalised for several days.

It emerged that the GOP Senate leader also suffered a “face plant” after boarding a flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on 14 July.

In February, Mr McConnell fell during a visit to Helsinki where he was leading a delegation of GOP senators.

In 2021, Kentucky’s Republican state legislator voted to change the laws surrounding the appointment of a new senator in the event of a death or retirement to ensure that the successor is from the same party.

Politico reported that there is growing speculation that Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, could try to flout the law and send the replacement process to the courts.

Mr Beshear told Politico that it would be “total speculation” to comment as there was no vacancy.

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