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McConnell and Feinstein Senior Moments Raise Concerns Over Ability to Lead

By Jake Beardslee · July 28, 2023

In brief…

  • U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, went silent in the middle of a press conference, raising questions about his health and ability to serve.
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, required assistance while casting a vote in a Senate committee hearing, adding to existing concerns over her mental acuity.
  • House Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries both said McConnell appeared fine after the incident, but some Republican senators are calling for more transparency about his health status.
  • The incidents - occurring over two days - underscore the challenges faced by an aging group of Washington lawmakers.
Mitch McConnell went silent mid-sentence during a press conference.  Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Two of the most senior members of the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have faced recent health scares that are raising questions about their ability to continue serving.

On Tuesday, McConnell seemed to freeze mid-sentence while speaking to reporters, uttering only, “Well, good afternoon, everyone. And a string of…” before stopping abruptly. McConnell returned shortly after and told reporters “I’m fine.” President Biden even called to check on him, McConnell remarked. “I told him I got sandbagged,” referencing a previous fall Biden had taken.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who met with the 81-year-old Senate GOP leader after the incident, said McConnell “seemed fine,” and he had no concerns. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who saw McConnell at an event that night, said in a press conference that the Republican leader “spoke eloquently.” However, some Republican senators said McConnell should disclose more details on whether there are any serious health issues. “He should tell us if something bigger is going on,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told ABC News. “Whatever he tells me I’ll trust to be true.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein needed help casting a vote in the Senate. University of California  The United States Senate - Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein/Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Feinstein seemed to need assistance while trying to cast a vote in a Senate committee hearing. When it was her turn to vote, she began reciting remarks, forgetting she was supposed to vote . Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the committee chair, could be heard saying “Just say aye.” Feinstein then simply said “Aye” to cast her vote.

At 90 years old, Feinstein has faced questions about her mental acuity. She was previously away from Capitol Hill for two months recovering from shingles.

The incidents involving McConnell and Feinstein underscore age and health problems faced by an aging group of Congressional lawmakers.