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Nikki Haley, a candidate for president and a former governor of South Carolina, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health incident, in which he froze last week while speaking to reporters, was a sign of a larger “congressional problem.”
The most recent incident involving the 81-year-old Kentucky Republican raised concerns once more about whether some senior lawmakers may be dealing with health issues that could make representing Americans challenging.
Haley called for “a younger generation” in Congress during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” pointing out Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is 90 years old, also has health issues.
“At what point do they get it’s time to leave? They need to let a younger generation take over. We want to go and start working for our kids to make sure we have strong national security, to make sure we have a stronger economic policy, to make sure that America is safe. And we can’t do that if these individuals refuse to give up power. This is not just a Republican or Democrat problem. This is a congressional problem. And they’ve got to know when to leave it. It’s time to pass this down to a new generation of conservative leaders that want to take our country to a better place,” Haley said.
Haley reaffirmed her support for congressional term limits and mental health screenings for “the entire Congress.”
“Tell us where you were born, name four words that start with the same letter. How many grandchildren do you have? These are basic questions that anyone should be able to answer,” Haley said.
Should McConnell have to be replaced due to what appears to be worsening health, Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear — who has the authority to name a successor — won’t commit to naming a Republican.
Beshear dodged the question about potentially having to fill a Senate vacancy during a press conference late last week, saying that McConnell’s office had not said anything about the GOP leader retiring before the end of his current term, which expires in January 2027.
“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 told reporters.
McConnell experienced a momentary pause again during a press conference in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday when questioned about his intention to run for re-election in 2026. About a month ago, the same thing happened during his weekly press conference.
Calls poured in for McConnell to retire, but he has explained that he’s been told by physicians he should expect them after suffering a concussion from a fall earlier this year.
“He was in good shape,” Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said, according to the Daily Wire. “He was direct. He said he fell. He said, ‘I had that concussion.’ And he said, ‘They warned me that I would be lightheaded in the future and that I have got to be aware of it.’ He said, ‘It happened twice.’ He said, ‘It just so happens I’m doing it in front of reporters.’ But he felt good yesterday. He said he’s got to watch his hydration levels.”
MConnell’s office says he plans on continuing to serve as Republican Senate leader through the 2024 election.
“Questions about the future of McConnell, 81, were swiftly raised this week after he froze for 30 seconds during a news conference. The statement doesn’t address his plans for the next Congress, which begins in 2025,” CNN reported.
“He’s definitely slower with his gait,” said a Republican senator, who allegedly spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The GOP senator added that in private meetings, McConnell “doesn’t address it,” referring to health issues.