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Mitch McConnell says "I’m completely recovered" after freezing episodes

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he has “completely recovered” and is “back on the job,” after twopublic episodes over the summer raised concerns about his health and ability to continue performing his congressional duties.

“I’m fine. I’m completely recovered, and I’m just fine,” said McConnell Sunday morning on “Face the Nation.”

Now 81, McConnell’s power and influence in Congress is significant. He has served as a senator from Kentucky since 1985, and, on top of that, held leadership roles in the Senate for much of the last couple of decades. McConnell began his latest term as his chamber’s Republican leader in 2021, after previously serving as majority leader and, earlier, majority whip. The lawmaker also serves as leader of the Senate Republican Conference, a role he has maintained since 2007.

Transcript: Senate Minority Leader MItch McConnell on “Face the Nation,” Oct. 22, 2023

Skepticism grew over McConnell’s health status after the senator twicestopped speakingsuddenly while giving news conferences in July and August, appearing to stare blankly ahead in the midst of addressing cameras and reporters before a colleague intervened, allowing McConnell a beat before picking back up with his remarks. Those incidents gave rise to questions about the senator’s recovery from a concussion in the spring. In September, McConnell’s staff released medical notes written to him by Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, which said the senator was not showing signs of suffering seizure disorders, stroke or Parkinson’s disease. The Office of Attending Physician had cleared McConnell to continue working, Monahan’s notes said.

McConnell survived polio as a child and has spoken openly about his experience beating the disease, including in a 2020 interview with theAssociated Presswhere he said, even in adulthood, long-term physical impacts of illness made it difficult to climb stairs.

Asked whether Monahan’smedical summaries left out any health information that might pertinent for the public to know, McConnell told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, “I’m in good shape, completely recovered and back on the job.”

He declined to answer a subsequent question that directly asked whether McConnell views himself fit to continue serving in Congress, especially given the distinct chaos and disorganization that has taken hold in recent months on Capitol Hill. McConnell changed the subject and suggested they resume a prior discussion about foreign policy, “rather than my health.”

To that end, McConnell said he supports the $100 billion request that President Biden sent to Congress on Friday, seeking to bundle aid for Israel amid its war with Hamas, Ukraine and U.S. border security. Mr. Biden had made the case during an Oval Office address on Thursday night that supporting Israel and Ukraine is necessary for both countries at war, and also in the U.S.’s best interest for national security.

A packaged aid deal for Israel and Ukraine has been met with some pushback from Republican federal lawmakers, although Congress is currently unable to act to fulfill the position of House Speaker since Kevin McCarthy’s was ousted in a historic voteon Oct. 3, essentially paralyzing the lower chamber. On “Face the Nation” on Sunday, McConnell said he views the Republican resistance in the House to packaging U.S. aid for Israel with Ukraine as “a mistake.”

“I know there are some Republicans in the Senate, and maybe more in the House, saying Ukraine is somehow different. I view it as all interconnected,” the senator said.

“We have big power competition from China, and Russia and we still have terrorism problems, as the Israelis have certainly experienced in a brutal way in the last week,” McConnell continued. “So I think that requires a worldwide approach rather than trying to take parts of it out. It’s all connected. The Chinese and the Russians said they’re now friends forever. Iranian drones are being used in Ukraine and against the Israelis.”

On the question of provisions in the aid package that could account for potential human rights violations happening in the Gaza Strip amid the Israel-Hamas war, McConnell said lawmakers “want to make sure we’re not sending money to Hamas” but acknowledged that “there are genuine humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza who are not Hamas, who’ve been thrown under the bus by what Hamas did.”

“But we want to be careful about how the money is spent, be sure it actually gets where it’s supposed to get,” McConnell said.

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