Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in the 10 days since he froze up on camera for the second time after suffering a concussion earlier this year, appears to be keeping his position in power after he and his allies rallied to deny critics a chance to remove him from the leadership position he’s held for years.
The 81-year-old Kentucky Republican faced the first challenge in leadership last year, when Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., mounted a campaign against him and lost, and his health problems may lead his opponents to try to replace him, reported Politico.
But his supporters, who include some of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have rallied to support him.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., one of McConnell’s top allies, commented that the senator had called him just minutes after his second lapse, in August, to say “I just had another one of those.”
But this time around, McConnell released a doctor’s letter to rule out more serious health issues and delivered a private presentation to Republicans on his health.
Still, there are questions about McConnell that only a few GOP senators are asking, including whether their leader’s health is going to haunt Republicans as former President Donald Trump with whom the senator has had issues, appears headed to the party’s presidential nomination.
McConnell’s allies, though, are dismissing speculation about whether he’ll be forced out before he’s ready to go, and Scott has refused another challenge so far with him, commenting that “we had a race, and he won.”
But if he freezes again, McConnell will likely face even more scrutiny. He’s fighting back though, including making a dig at doctors who went on TV to diagnose him without knowing his condition.
The comment came during a luncheon with party members, and one person attending saw it as a jab at Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., an ophthalmologist who questioned Capitol physician Brian Monahan’s diagnosis of the minority leader. Another person, though, said McConnell wasn’t referring to Paul, but to media personalities talking about his health.
Paul, meanwhile, does not appear to be backing down.
“It’s a medically invalid conclusion to say that, because you have a normal EEG, you don’t have a seizure disorder when, in all likelihood, everything is pointing towards that,” he commented.
But while McConnell appears more frail and he’s speaking more quietly, some Republicans close to him say that the freezes are likely “after-effects” from his concussion.
“He’s acknowledged that the concussion had a bigger impact on him,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a member of his leadership team said, adding that she spoke with him after his latest freeze and he observed that he’s not a “’25-year-old quarterback.'”
McConnell was accompanied at the GOP lunch by Steven Law, a former chief of staff who runs two prominent outside Republican groups that brought in $50 million during August. The groups can determine whether a GOP candidate wins or loses.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., further attested to McConnell’s alertness.
“In all the lunches and meetings we have, he’s always thinking strategically,” Rubio, who tried to delay last year’s leadership elections, said.
“There’s never been a time where I’m dealing with him, where I feel like he doesn’t know what he’s doing or doesn’t know where he is,” Rubio said last week. “I think he’s probably more energetic this week than before.”
Meanwhile, the 10 senators who voted for Scott last year don’t appear to be planning another attempt to oust McConnell.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, commented that he’s already “said what I’m going to say on this topic,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he supports McConnell now after he voted for Scott last year.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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