Sep 6, 2023, 6:42am EDT

Republicans question Mitch McConnell’s health

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is working aggressively to quell concerns about his health, but the reviews among his caucus were mixed on their first day back from recess.

On Tuesday, he released another letter from Congress’ attending physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, that ruled out a stroke, a seizure, or Parkinson’s disease as the cause of his recent medical episodes — all of which were publicly discussed as potential causes of his recent freeze-ups. Monahan wrote in a separate letter last week that lightheadedness can stem from dehydration in recovering concussion victims, an explanation that McConnell’s aides used to tamp down speculation around the Kentucky Republican’s health.

Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator and a trained ophthalmologist, wasn’t having it. He told Semafor that he believed it was “mildly annoying to see people saying this is dehydration when it’s obviously not” and hoped to get more answers at Wednesday’s weekly GOP lunch.

“Everybody’s seen the clips,” he said. “It’s not a valid medical diagnosis for people to say that’s dehydration.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., suggested that increased scrutiny on McConnell’s health may undercut the GOP’s attacks on President Biden, whom they frequently lambast as too old to be in office. “You can’t say that you’re concerned about Joe Biden, but you’re not concerned about Mitch McConnell,” he told reporters.

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McConnell delivered a Senate floor speech Tuesday that briefly referenced his public freeze-up at a press conference in Kentucky. “Now, one particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention in the press over the past week, but I assure you August was a busy and productive month for me and my staff back in the commonwealth,” he said.

A number of senators said they had received calls from him in the interim, and several offered encouragement.

“He certainly looked sharp on the floor,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, told Semafor, referring to his initial floor remarks, while adding he wanted more transparency from the Kentucky Republican who’s led Senate Republicans through four presidential administrations since 2006.

“We might lose 20 seconds a day from Mitch McConnell, but the other 86,380 seconds are just fine,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters. “And I’m happy to have him as our leader.”