Top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell has been medically cleared to continue with his schedule, the attending physician to Congress said on Thursday. The news came one day after the 81-year-old froze up at an event in his home state of Kentucky. The incident had raised fresh questions about the health of the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, who had similarly frozen up a month earlier during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol. McConnell’s office has dismissed the latest episode as lightheadedness and has emphasized that the Republican leader is “relatively healthy.”
The incident prompted concerns about whether the Senate majority leader can carry out his duties, particularly as lawmakers return from summer recess next week and must pass legislation to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year expires. Lawmakers have a few days to work through issues, including funding the military, veterans affairs, and food safety programs. McConnell is critical in those negotiations and frequently in the Senate chambers.
McConnell’s re-election to his leadership post last November was marred by speculation about his health. As a child, he had a polio-related accident and has long acknowledged difficulty with climbing stairs. He also fell at a dinner in March and suffered a concussion and rib fracture that kept him sidelined for several weeks.
He shook off the latest incident and returned to his usual routine. He spent most of the morning in the Senate chamber, where he was participating in a policy briefing with his fellow Republicans and then gave an unscheduled news conference. At that event, McConnell was asked by a reporter whether he would run for re-election in 2026. He froze up and looked ahead for 30 seconds, and his aide had to repeat the question to him before he answered it.
After the news conference, McConnell met with Republican challengers for his seat — Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and John Thune (R-S.D.). Aides to both men said they had a “wide-ranging discussion.” Banks posted a photo of himself and McConnell on social media, and his aides said the pair discussed the race for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan.
President Joe Biden addressed the matter Thursday afternoon, calling McConnell “a friend” and saying he had no doubts about his ability to carry out his duties as Senate majority leader. Biden added that he had spoken to McConnell earlier in the day, and the senator was “his old self” on the phone.