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Congressional doctor clears McConnell for work after 'freezing' episode

Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.

After health concerns Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s physician gave him the go ahead to continue with his regular schedule.

For the second time publicly, McConnell froze mid-answer and appeared unable to speak after a reporter asked him a question in Covington. A spokesperson for the 81-year-old Republican senator said he was feeling lightheaded.

On Thursday, McConnell’s office shared a note from Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court. In the note, Monahan wrote that, after consulting with the senate minority leader and his neurology team, McConnell was fine to continue working.

“After evaluating yesterday’s incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned,” Monahan wrote in the note.

Monahan said McConnell had experienced “occasional lightheadedness,” which he attributed to dehydration and recovery from a recent concussion.

McConnell was hospitalized earlier this year after a bad fall left him with a concussion in March.

Wednesday’s incident was the second time in a little more than a month McConnell publicly froze and stopped speaking during a news conference. The first time McConnell froze was while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in late July. After that incident, an aide for the senator said he was feeling light-headed during the incident.

In a news conference in Frankfort on Thursday, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said he would not comment on what would happen if McConnell resigned from his seat.

“Senator McConnell has said he’s going to serve out his term, and I believe him,” Beshear said. “So I’m not going to speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”

Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature recently changed how the state fills Congressional vacancies – now requiring a temporary replacement to be picked from the same political party of the departing senator.

The succession process has been a topic of much discussion among Kentucky political strategists, some of whom expect Democrats to challenge the measure if a vacancy emerges.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.

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