GOP Senator: Might Be Time for McConnell to Resign

McConnell's office says he will remain GOP leader at least until the next Congress
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2023 10:14 AM CDT
GOP Senator: Might Be Time for McConnell to Resign
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, is assisted by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., second from right, and a Capitol Police officer after the 81-year-old GOP leader froze at the microphones as he arrived for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 26, 2023.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Some Republican senators say they've observed concerning changes in Mitch McConnell's behavior since he suffered a concussion and broken rib during a fall in March. Their concerns were exacerbated Wednesday when the Senate minority leader froze for around 20 seconds during a press conference. He gave no reason for the interruption, though Dr. Sanjay Gupta has speculated about a petit mal seizure or a mini stroke. On Friday, McConnell's office acted to assuage concerns, confirming his plan to serve out the 118th Congress as GOP leader, per CNN. "I don't know how much longer he will want to serve, but I support him as long as he wants the job," said Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a former whip who's eyed as a potential successor, per NBC News.

"There are several qualified contenders who are ambitious and have been serving patiently, waiting for the opportunity to lead," Michael Zona, a former communications director of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, tells Newsweek. The outlet reports Senate Minority Whip John Thune and John Barrasso, chair of the Senate Republican Conference, are two of the other primary candidates to replace McConnell. The 81-year-old, who's been in Congress since 1985 and led the GOP since 2007, has not laid out his plans beyond early 2025, when the next Congress will begin. He's not up for reelection until 2026.

But he's reportedly fallen several times this year. Since his fall in March, "he has appeared to have trouble hearing and responding to questions from reporters," NBC reports. "People think that he's not hearing well" but "I think that he is just not processing," an unnamed GOP senator tells the outlet. The senator says McConnell doesn't speak as often as he once did during closed-door meetings, with Thune and Barrasso often stepping in for him, particularly "in the last few weeks." The senator adds it may be time for McConnell to step down. "I'd hate to see it forced on him," the senator says. "I hope he does it in a dignified way—for his own legacy and reputation." GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis, meanwhile, says he remains "the same old pithy, smart Mitch McConnell" and has her full support. (More Mitch McConnell stories.)

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