Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, returning to Capitol Hill Tuesday, made just a brief, indirect reference to the alarming moment when he seemed to freeze for more than 30 seconds last week, declining to go into detail in remarks on the Senate floor.
“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,” McConnell said, otherwise welcoming senators back after the August recess.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also alluded to McConnell’s return in his remarks.
“I was here for the presentation by the Republican leader, and I’m happy he returned,” Durbin said just after McConnell finished speaking. “I told him it was great to see him back and I couldn’t wait to disagree with him, and I’m sure I’ll have that opportunity in the near future.”
Earlier Tuesday, McConnell’s office released a letter from the Capitol physician stating McConnell did not appear to suffer a stroke or seizure when he seemed to freeze for more than 30 second last week.
Dr. Brian P. Monahan wrote in the letter that he examined McConnell after he froze and that after reviewing a “brain MRI imaging, EEG study and consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment,” he found that “there is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, [transient ischemic attack] or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease.”
“There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 fall,” Monahan wrote to the 81-year-old McConnell.
The letter marks the most comprehensive information McConnell’s office has released about his condition or the medical treatment he is receiving since he suffered a concussion and broken rib from a fall in Washington earlier this year. The letter’s publication also comes the same day as the Senate’s return from the August recess, when speculation over McConnell’s health mounted.
McConnell’s freeze-up last week added to concerns after a similar incident occurred in late July, when he was escorted away by colleagues from a press conference on Capitol Hill after he stopped speaking mid-sentence.
He stayed to answer another question last week, while in July he eventually returned to answer more questions from the press after he was helped away.
McConnell’s allies have maintained that they believe the Kentuckian can continue his tenure as the longest-serving Senate party leader in history, insisting he hasn’t lost a step.
“Mitch is sharp, and he is shrewd. He understands what needs to be done,” South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said Sunday on CNN. “I will leave it up to him as to how he wants to discuss that with the American public. But there’s no doubt in my mind that he is perfectly capable of continuing on at this stage of the game.”
President Joe Biden also said last week that “I don’t” have concerns about McConnell’s ability to lead Senate Republicans.
Still, other Republicans have voiced concerns about McConnell and other elderly lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is 90 years old and whose physical and mental health are also widely discussed on Capitol Hill.
“At what point do they get it’s time to leave?” former South Carolina Gov. and presidential contender Nikki Haley said on CBS News after McConnell’s incident. “They need to let a younger generation take over. We want to go and start working for our kids to make sure we have a strong national security, to make sure we have a stronger economic policy, to make sure that America is safe.”