Mitch McConnell Draws Unlikely Support As Republicans Turn Against Him


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is receiving support from some Democrats as members of his own party question his ability to continue to perform his duties.

McConnell, 81, has represented Kentucky in the Senate since 1985 and has led Republicans in either a majority or minority facet since 2007. He has faced calls for resignation from different political sects in the wake of two separate incidents in which the longtime legislator froze while addressing reporters—on July 26 in the U.S. Capitol, and more recently on August 30 in Covington, Kentucky, just as he was asked if he would seek reelection in 2024.

The senator, whose appearance seems to have altered in terms of his weight, has said he remains well enough to do the job. To quell concerns about his mental or physical fitness, his office released a letter on Tuesday from the Capitol physician Brian Monahan, who said that there is “no evidence” that the senator suffered a seizure disorder, stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease during the latest incident.

“I don’t think there’s a hunger or yearning to replace him on our side,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told Politico in an interview published Thursday. “I think there’s a feeling on the part of our leadership that they can work with him.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on September 6, 2023, in Washington, D.C. McConnell declined to elaborate on his recent health issues and pointed reporters to a statement from the Attending Physician of Congress Dr. Brian P. Monahan.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic Senator John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke prior to his successful election last November and has faced similar criticisms regarding his health, said he doesn’t like McConnell’s episodes “being weaponized.”

“I truly don’t believe in really kind of hammering individuals—you know, elderly. I just don’t,” Fetterman told reporters Wednesday. “And I have to believe in trusting those individuals. And it’s not really a partisan thing.”

Newsweek has reached out to Blumenthal and Fetterman for additional comment.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told Politico that he talked with McConnell on Wednesday and that the Republican “never missed a beat.” He declined to answer whether McConnell leading his party was good or bad for Democrats politically.

“He’s done his job and done it well for a long time,” Manchin said. “I agree and I disagree with him. But we’ve always had respectful disagreements, and when we did, we tried to work through them.”

A spokesperson for Manchin told Newsweek that he had no additional comment on whether discussions about McConnell’s health or position have occurred in Democratic circles.

Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives have criticized McConnell’s intentions to continue to lead the party, with some even calling for his resignation.

On Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley said that when he goes to Missouri and attends meetings, he receives many questions about McConnell and his ability to lead the party—and that was before McConnell’s most recent freezing incident.

“My view is that 2024 is an awfully important election for Republicans,” Hawley told reporters. “We should have taken back the Senate last year but didn’t. This is our shot to take it back and I just hope we’re gonna be focused on that.”

When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju if he has concerns about McConnell leading Republicans back to the majority, Hawley replied, “Absolutely.”

“That’s why I voted against him in December,” said the senator. “He’s not my choice for leader.”

Republican Senator Rand Paul, a physician himself, told reporters on Wednesday that he was skeptical of Monahan’s diagnosis.

“I don’t think it’s been particularly helpful to have the Senate doctor describing it as dehydration, which I think even a non-physician seeing that probably aren’t really accepting that explanation,” Paul told reporters Tuesday.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said McConnell’s family should be “ashamed” for continuing to allow him to “remain in office.”

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a GOP presidential candidate, called the Senate “a privileged nursing home” following McConnell’s recent scare. She said she would implement mental competency tests for anyone serving who is 75 years or older.

William J. Kole, a veteran journalist and author of the upcoming book The Big 100: The New World of Super-Aging, told Newsweek via phone that the U.S. desperately needs younger candidates but that the current system is what some would describe as “backward.”

“We have an interesting dynamic in the U.S. because we have age limits in politics but only at the younger end of the scale,” Kole said, referring to the minimum age of 35 for president, for example.

Some, like former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 83, have let the youthful end of her party take over, Kole said, adding that Pelosi is an example of not drawing sweeping conclusions from one individual’s situation—be it McConnell or Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“What we’re hearing is a clamor for mental competency tests,” he said. “That’s a bridge too far, honestly. Age has long been weaponized in American politics, but mental competency tests are a nuclear option I think.”

He continued: “Any blanket assessment is going to be inherently ageist. We don’t age the same way. There’s probably merit in looking at the individual and their biological age and not just their chronological age.”

He believes term limits are more appropriate for limiting such questions in the future.

McConnell has received support from some colleagues on his side of the aisle, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney.

Questions remain in Kentucky whether Democratic Governor Andy Beshear could override the state’s GOP-led legislature and replace McConnell with a Democrat if he should vacate his position. Legal experts have said such a move would likely lead to lawsuits.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here