Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, is not evidently suffering from “a seizure disorder”, a stroke or a “movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease”, the congressional physician said on Tuesday.
The doctor’s remarks came a little less than a week after the 81-year-old senator suffered a second worrying freeze in front of reporters.
Last week, the physician, Brian P Monahan, cleared McConnell to return to work after the freeze in Kentucky on Wednesday. Monahan said McConnell might have been suffering from the effects of concussion sustained in a fall in March, or perhaps dehydration.
In a letter released on Tuesday, Monahan referred to the senator’s “brief episode” and said he had carried out “several medical evaluations”, including “brain MRI imaging, EEG [electroencephalogram] study and consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment”.
“There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA [transient ischemic attack] or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease,” Monahan’s letter asserted. “There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 fall.”
That fall also resulted in a rib injury, keeping McConnell away from the Capitol.
Speculation about his future as Republican leader is bound to continue despite Monahan’s assurances. After McConnell’s first freeze in front of reporters, at the Capitol in late July, other falls including a “face plant” at an airport were widely reported.
Senate Republicans have avoided openly questioning their leader’s fitness to serve but some, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said it is increasingly at issue.
Senators returned to Washington on Tuesday for a month packed with political problems, including a push by Republican extremists in the House to impeach Joe Biden, shut down the government or both.
On Tuesday afternoon, McConnell delivered remarks on the Senate floor.
“The Senate returns with our work cut out for us and a deadline fast approaching,” he said, referring to the 30 September deadline for continuing government funding.
Public polling shows that most Americans think their leaders are becoming too old, with majorities in favour of upper age limits.
Majorities also think that at 80, Biden is too old to run for re-election as president. Smaller majorities are concerned about the age of his likely challenger, Donald Trump, who at 77 has 14 fewer years on the clock than he faces criminal indictments.
In the Senate, the oldest on record, the evidently deteriorating health of the 90-year-old senior Democrat from California, Dianne Feinstein, has long been a subject of controversy, particularly during her own lengthy, health-enforced absence.
Feinstein will retire next year. McConnell has repeatedly said he intends to complete his seventh term in office, which ends in 2026.
If the seat became vacant, Kentucky state law says the Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, must pick a Republican replacement. Asked if he would seek a way round that requirement, Beshear has avoided comment.
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