Knives out for Mitch: Republicans target a weakened McConnell after he freezes up for a second time

Sen. Josh Hawley and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene call McConnell unfit for office

Published September 8, 2023 5:22PM (EDT)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., takes questions after taking a break from a news conference because of lightheadedness, after the senate luncheons on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., takes questions after taking a break from a news conference because of lightheadedness, after the senate luncheons on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell's Republican colleagues in Congress, including at least one member of his own GOP caucus in the Senate, are now calling for the Republican leader to step aside.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. joined the ranks of Republican lawmakers who have voiced opposition to the Kentucky senator continuing to hold office after his second instance appearing to freeze during a news conference in the last month sparked concerns about his health and ability to serve. 

"I don't think you can have it both ways," Hawley told press gathered in the Capitol Hill hallways Thursday, referencing Republicans' attacks on President Joe Biden over his health and capability.

"If you're concerned about the president's ability to do his job, and I am, and a lot of Republicans say they are, you have to be concerned when it's someone from your own party," Hawley continued, adding that he does not think the 81-year-old McConnell should remain leader.

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Hawley doubled down on his position in an interview with Fox News that night, telling host Laura Ingraham that he was "concerned" McConnell could affect the potential 2024 success of the Republican Party if he completes his term. "I understand why people are concerned about it, I'm concerned about it," he said. "Listen Laura, I'll be honest with you, I didn't vote for Mitch McConnell for leader. He is not my choice to be leader and so I think we need a change. I've said that for months."

McConnell's fellow Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, a Republican, said the incidents leave him concerned for McConnell.

"It doesn't look like dehydration to me. It looks like a focal neurologic event. That doesn't mean it's incapacitating, it doesn't mean he can't serve, but it means that somebody ought to wake up and say, 'Wow! This looks like a seizure.'"

Along with Hawley and Paul in the Senate, MAGA darling Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has called for McConnell to step down.

"I don't think you can have it both ways."

"Severe aging health issues and/or mental health incompetence in our nation's leaders MUST be addressed," Greene wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. "Biden, McConnell, Feinstein, and Fetterman are examples of people who are not fit for office and it's time to be serious about it," Greene continued before raising the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, which addresses succession and disability as it applies to the president. 

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"These politician's staff and family members should be ashamed of themselves by enabling and allowing their loved ones to remain in office all to hold power. We are talking about our country's national security and it's all at stake! 25th amendment and other measures need to be on the table," she wrote. 

Despite his recent freezes, McConnell has dismissed calls from other party members for his resignation, declaring earlier this week, "I'm going to finish my term as leader and I'm going to finish my Senate term."

In a letter released by McConnell's office on Tuesday, Dr. Brian Monahan, the U.S. Capitol attending physician wrote, "There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA or movement disorder such as Parkinson's disease."

After the freeze-up in July, CNN reported McConnell fell two other times this year. McConnell was also hospitalized earlier this year with a concussion after falling at a private dinner in March at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

McConnell's health is just one subject that has widened the split between congressional members of the GOP as in-fighting over whether to probe and punish Atlanta-area District Attorney Fani Willis and whether to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden has inflamed tension in the group.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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Gop Civil War Laura Ingraham Marjorie Taylor Greene Mitch Mcconnell Mtg Republicans