McConnell Plans To Serve His Full Term

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
July 28, 2023

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) plans to remain in his leadership post through the 2024 elections, a spokesperson said on Friday, two days after the minority leader froze up for about 21 seconds while speaking to reporters.

"He plans to serve his full term in the job they (Republican senators) overwhelmingly elected him to do," the spokesperson said. The statement was silent on McConnell's plans for the next Congress, which begins in January 2025. McConnell, 81, is serving a six-year term that runs through 2026.

Politico first reported the statement on Thursday evening.

Congress has just begun a long summer recess, with senators scheduled to return on Sept. 5.

In September, the Senate and the House of Representatives will be staring down a Sept. 30 deadline for agreeing on 12 complicated bills to fund the government in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The top four Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, including McConnell, typically play a crucial role in this effort as they try to avert partial government shutdowns for a lack of funds.

McConnell's Republicans will aim to retake their majority in the chamber in next year's election, which could also see a rematch between Democratic President Joe Biden and his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who is currently leading his party's field of candidates for the 2024 nomination.

The longest-serving Senate party leader in history began a regular scheduled press conference on Wednesday only to freeze up for 21 seconds, standing still and staring straight ahead before his colleagues leaned in to ask if he was well.

"Are you OK, Mitch? Anything else you want to say or should we just go back to your office?" Senator John Barrasso asked before McConnell turned and walked away with the help of Barrasso, a physician.

McConnell rejoined the press conference about 12 minutes later, saying, "I'm fine" and answering reporters' questions on other topics.

He batted away a question about who might succeed him in leadership.

On Friday, McConnell's spokesperson did not provide any explanation for what had caused the lightheadedness the senator experienced during Wednesday's episode.

McConnell had been sidelined from the Senate earlier this year after he tripped at a Washington dinner on March 8 and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of a concussion. He also suffered a minor rib fracture and was later moved to a rehabilitation facility. He returned to the Senate in April.

Many top figures in Washington are of advanced age, with President Joe Biden running for reelection at 80 and the average age in the Senate above 64.

Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) was sidelined for months this year after a bout of shingles that caused complications including encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can cause facial paralysis.

A majority of Americans, some 61 percent, told a November Reuters/Ipsos poll that they were very or somewhat concerned that members of Congress are too old to represent the American people.

McConnell served as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021 and as Senate minority leader since then. Democrats, including three independents who vote with them, currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, when all senators are present.

His legislative skills have torpedoed many Democratic initiatives over the years, both when his party held a majority in the chamber and when Democrats have held the edge, as they currently do.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Tim Ahmann; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)