Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is facing calls to step down from his leadership position over concerns about his health.
For Context: During a press conference last week, McConnell froze while speaking with reporters, appearing unresponsive for roughly twenty seconds. The incident closely resembled another at a press conference in July, when McConnell became unresponsive while addressing reporters and was eventually led away by staff.
Back in March, McConnell suffered a concussion after falling at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Washington, D.C.
Details: Following the recent incident, McConnell was medically cleared by the Capitol attending physician, Brian Monahan, who determined McConnell did not suffer a stroke or seizure and stated, "occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration."
On Wednesday, McConnell addressed reporters for the first time since the incident, offering assurances that he was medically fit to continue in his role as the Senate Republican leader.
While reports indicated that many Republican lawmakers were satisfied with McConnell's assurances, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pushed back on Monahan’s report, telling The Hill (Center bias), “The doctor said that they ruled out seizure disorder from an EEG. A normal EEG doesn’t rule out seizures… it is a medical mistake to say that someone doesn’t have a seizure disorder because they have a normal EEG.”
How the Media Covered It: McConnell's incident fits into a wider conversation around the advanced age of American politicians. Voices across the spectrum compared concerns over McConnell to concerns regarding the ability of President Joe Biden, 80, to complete a second term if reelected in 2024, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89, who plans to retire at the end of 2024.
On the right, McConnell faced calls to step down from a number of Republican factions. Some, like the National Review Editorial Board (Right bias), called on McConnell to relinquish his leadership position while commending and praising his work as a Republican leader. Other Republicans, such as the pro-Donald Trump faction, have advocated for the replacement of McConnell prior to these incidents on account of his vocal disapproval of the former president and 2024 candidate.
On the left, some voices who have opposed McConnell are now worried about his potential retirement. Once seen as the largest barrier to the Democratic Party agenda, McConnell's image has shifted in recent years as he's increasingly perceived by left-rated voices to be a bulwark against the hyper-partisan Freedom Caucus.
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Snippets from the Right
"McConnell has noticeably aged since his bad fall in March, when he sustained a concussion and broken rib, and he should want, for his own sake and that of his colleagues, to go out on his own terms. The details can be left to McConnell, who deserves a large measure of deference. A leadership transition doesn’t need to happen urgently, but the wheels should be turning."
"McConnell is the longest-serving party leader in Senate history. The conservative majority that will lead the Supreme Court for a generation would not be there without his leadership. He deserves to end his historic career on his own terms, but that end is near. He doubtless knows it. McConnell’s Republican colleagues would be well advised to have a plan ready for his retirement, which is surely coming soon."
Snippets from the Center
"His frail appearance is already raising doubts among some disgruntled Senate GOP colleagues about whether he’s the best face of the Republican effort to take back the Senate and usher in a new era of leadership in Washington. Some of McConnell’s critics within the conference have discussed forcing a special meeting to discuss his health, something they could do with just five votes."
"Elsewhere, some Republican Senators have voiced their concerns about whether McConnell will be able to continue in office. Others are also not happy with a previous assessment from Monahan suggesting the 81-year-old may have froze in August because he was lightheaded or dehydrated, which may have been triggered by the concussion McConnell suffered in March following a fall at a D.C. hotel."
Snippets from the Left
"It’s also hard to talk about such things without making blanket statements. McConnell and President Joe Biden, 80, are contemporaries, in almost every sense of the word. Biden is running for re-election, despite having weathered a string of questions and commentary — mostly from Republicans, but also from some Democrats — about whether he’s still fit to serve. He has had a few spills and stumbled over words, but we’ve seen nothing from him comparable to what we’ve seen from McConnell."
"At a moment when the primary GOP argument against President Biden is that he’s too old to serve a second term, some believe they can win points by saying they pushed out their own aging lion. More importantly, McConnell’s most dramatic feats of partisanship are in the past, and a party still in former president Donald Trump’s thrall is ready to be rid of him."