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HomeNewsMcConnell's Return to Senate Sees Minimal Attention towards Public Freeze-ups

McConnell’s Return to Senate Sees Minimal Attention towards Public Freeze-ups

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sidestepped questions about his health in his return to the Capitol on Tuesday, six days after freezing up for a second time while speaking in public.

The 81-year-old lawmaker addressed the Senate hours after the doctor of Congress said in a statement that the two episodes did not appear to be the result of a stroke or seizure, but offered no explanation of what caused McConnell to stand speechless and wide-eyed during a press conference last Wednesday.

“Now, one particular moment of my time back home 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,” McConnell said.

He appeared thin and wan on the Senate floor, and spoke in a baritone that wavered from time to time.

Dr. Brian Monahan wrote in a one-paragraph letter that he had reached his conclusion after a comprehensive neurological assessment that included the results of brain MRI imaging, an EEG (electroencephalogram) study and consultations with several neurologists.

The incidents have raised questions about McConnell’s health and his future as the longest-serving party leader in Senate history.

McConnell ignored repeated questions about his health from reporters as he made his way to and from the Senate chamber, where he delivered a six-minute speech that contained a single oblique reference to the latest incident.

McConnell was sidelined for weeks after he tripped at a Washington dinner on March 8 and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of a concussion and a minor rib fracture. He returned to the Senate in April.

In his letter, Monahan wrote: “There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA (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.”

McConnell’s office declined to answer a request for further detail on what doctors believe caused the incidents. His staff released the doctor’s letter as the Senate reconvened after a lengthy summer recess.


Two neurologists not involved in McConnell’s treatment, who spoke to Reuters, said the MRI and EEG tests would not necessarily rule out the possibility of a seizure because those tests would not automatically show evidence of one.

“In most patients with a seizure disorder, an EEG will oftentimes come back normal in between episodes, and is more helpful to rule in a seizure if it records some abnormal activity between episodes or even captures an episode,” said Anthony Kim, medical director for the University of California San Francisco stroke center.

Kim said MRI results often come back normal for seizure patients as well because they don’t show brain activity.

The Kentucky lawmaker waved to reporters earlier on Tuesday as he left his Washington area home for the U.S. Capitol, dressed in khaki slacks and a blue sport jacket.

Twice in the last six weeks, McConnell has frozen up during public appearances.

The latest incident occurred last Wednesday during a press conference in Kentucky, where he froze for more than 30 seconds and stared into space before being escorted away. A similar incident occurred in the U.S. Capitol on July 26 as McConnell spoke to reporters.

His office at the time described the events as being the result of lightheadedness and dehydration.

The two incidents have raised fresh questions among Republican and Democratic members of Congress about McConnell and other aging lawmakers.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, was sidelined for months this year after a bout of shingles that caused complications including encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can cause facial paralysis.

The Senate will have urgent work ahead, including passing legislation to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.

McConnell in the past has typically played an important role in negotiating and passing spending bills.

Without congressional action, the federal government would begin to partially shut down in October.

McConnell has served as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021 and as Senate minority leader since then. Democrats, including three independents who vote with them, hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, when all senators are present.

© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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