July 28, 2023 -WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said he is “fine” since he froze up midsentence during a press conference on Wednesday. And now his office is trying to tamp down speculation that he might not fill out his term as leader because of his health.
In a statement, his office said McConnell appreciates the continued support of his colleagues and “plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do.”
The statement, first reported by Politico, comes after McConnell, 81, has suffered health problems in recent months. At his weekly press conference, he froze and stared vacantly for about 20 seconds before his GOP colleagues standing behind him grabbed his elbows and asked if he wanted to go back to his office. He later returned to the news conference and answered questions as if nothing had happened.
Even as McConnell tried to brush off the concerns, the episode raised new questions among his colleagues about his health and also whether McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has served as Republican leader since 2007, might soon step aside from his leadership post.
He was elected to a two-year term as leader in January by a large majority of his conference, despite an insurgent challenge from Florida Sen. Rick Scott. He would be up for re-election as leader again after the 2024 elections.
By then, he will have to decide also if he wants to run again for another Senate term. He is up for re-election in 2026.
“Mitch is strong, he’s stubborn as a mule,” Cruz said. “My prayers are with them. I hope that — we’re going into the August recess — I hope he has time to fully recuperate.”
GOP senators who are seen as potential successors have been cautious in their approach to questions.
“He’s fine, he’s back to work,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican and one of the senators standing behind McConnell when he froze up.