It is no secret that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is aging, but now even his Republican colleagues are expressing growing concerns about the senator’s declining health.
Politico reported Monday that several Republican lawmakers have “grown more alarmed” at the 81-year-old senator’s fitness, and his hearing loss in particular.
One attendee of a recent Senate Republican lunch told Politico, “[McConnell] was just sitting there as the conversation went on around him.” Another even suggested to McConnell’s campaign staff that the Senate leader should consider hearing implants.
Hearing loss might explain recent accounts that McConnell has not been participating as much in weekly party meetings, and has appeared to be generally out of it. “I think he is just not processing,” one senator said of McConnell’s behavior last month.
Mitch McConnell’s worsening health had been largely out of view of the American public, until a press conference last month where he fell eerily silent, and had to be escorted away. The senator has declined to explain the incident, and whether or not it was connected to a fall he took in March which resulted in a concussion and weeks-long absence from the Senate.
In private, McConnell’s colleagues have become increasingly concerned, and some have begun planning for his eventual replacement from the Senate.
One senator previously told Politico that “the next leadership election is underway.”
Earlier this month, McConnell attended the annual Fancy Farm picnic, a real who’s-who of Kentucky politicians and McConnell’s first public event since his unnerving press conference appearance.
There, McConnell spoke in a strained voice, and was closely attended to by his wife and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Chao repeatedly had to help McConnell up from his chair, giving the impression that McConnell has not fully recovered from his episode last month.
Even Jonathan Martin, Politico’s senior political columnist, said that McConnell’s worsening health is distressing. “As somebody who’s covered McConnell for years, it’s jarring to see his decline,” Martin wrote.