Undeterred by Health Scares, McConnell Vows to Continue as GOP Leader

By Patricia Anderson August 31, 2023

Amid health concerns and viral freezing incidents, Mitch McConnell is staunch in his commitment to serve as Republican leader.

Despite experiencing two freeze-ups in public over two months and subsequent questions regarding his tenure, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has been maneuvering behind the scenes to assure his allies and donors he’s equipped to continue his role. McConnell, the longest-serving GOP leader in Senate history with 16 years under his belt, has made it emphatically clear he intends to remain in his post until the conclusion of the 118th Congress at the end of next year.

However, the 81-year-old Kentuckian has skilfully evaded questions regarding his plans to run for the leadership position in the following Congress slated to commence in 2025. Dialogues with Republican senators and aides suggest a potential shift in GOP leadership, the first since McConnell took over in 2007, given the uncertainties surrounding his recent health struggles.

As the Senate leader recuperates from a recent concussion, he has not publicly revealed the reason behind his pair of 30-second freezes this summer, the most recent of which occurred Wednesday in Covington, Kentucky. McConnell’s aides have indicated he was feeling “lightheaded” and would consult with a medical professional about these incidents, but no official diagnosis has been released.

Despite the viral nature of his health scares, McConnell did not broach the topic at a Wednesday fundraiser for Republican Rep. Jim Banks, who's campaigning for an Indiana Senate seat. According to two attendees, McConnell mingled with the crowd and behaved normally, offering reassurances to his supporters.

Characterizing McConnell’s appearance at the function, Banks described the Republican leader as “sharp” and “engaging” and thoroughly invested in Banks' campaign. Another attendee referred to McConnell as “tough as nails.”

Addressing rumors and concerns post the unsettling incident, McConnell reached out to several GOP senators, including potential successors, reaffirming that he was in good health. Ryan Wrasse, a spokesperson for Senate GOP Whip John Thune, confirmed that McConnell sounded like his usual self and was in good spirits.

McConnell’s sudden freezes have raised questions about his fitness to serve in such a high-power role, with some demanding more clarity on his health status. GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota, has called for greater transparency regarding McConnell's health, not just for the electorate in Kentucky, but for the entire Congress.

Despite these health concerns, likely successors such as Thune, John Barrasso, and John Cornyn, continue to back the leader. Speaking about the impending leadership elections due in November 2024, Cornyn remains unflappable and states there's nothing to prepare for at the moment.