Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health issues are a growing concern to the public — and Democrats are pressuring Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to replace the longtime Republican leader with a Democrat and tilt the power in Washington, D.C., further left.
McConnell, 81, went catatonic and was unable to answer a question from a reporter at an event in Kentucky on Wednesday, weeks after he had a similar episode in Washington.
The latest incident in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday only adds to the questions in recent months about McConnell’s health and whether the Republican, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has served as GOP leader since 2007, will remain in Congress and in his leadership post.
The senior lawmaker has fallen numerous times in public this year, including one at a donor event in March that required McConnell to be hospitalized.
His recent freeze-up was similar to an occurrence in July, when he froze for about 20 seconds at a news conference in the Capitol. That time, he was ushered back into his office by aides and later returned to answer more questions.
There has been reports of chatter among Republican senators about McConnell stepping aside.
At a press conference Thursday, Beshear evaded questions about his potential plans to replace McConnell if he resigns or cannot complete his term.
“There is no Senate vacancy. Senator McConnell has said he’s going to serve out his term, and I believe him, so I’m not going to speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen,” Beshear said.
Beshear is bound by law to replace any resigning U.S. senator in his state from a list of three candidates, chosen by the retiring senators political party in Kentucky — in McConnell’s case, Republicans. According to the law, the governor of Kentucky must choose from “a list of three names submitted by the state executive committee of the same political party as the Senator who held the vacant seat to be filled.”
But Democrat-aligned lawyers have suggested that Beshear could nominate a Democrat and prompt a lawsuit so he could challenge the law in court.
Beshear himself vetoed the law in 2021, but his veto was later overturned by Republicans.
“The bill … upends a century of precedent by delegating the power to select the representative of all Kentuckians to an unelected, unaccountable committee of an organization that represents only a fraction of Kentuckians,” he said at the time.
McConnell still has three years left on his term, and the current U.S. Senate is divided by a narrow 51-49 in favor of the Democratic Party.
Despite his serious health woes, Capitol Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan cleared the 81-year-old McConnell to “continue with his schedule as planned.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.