McConnell’s freeze-ups not a stroke or seizure disorder, doctor says

WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s two episodes of freezing up while speaking in public appear not to be the result of a stroke or a seizure disorder, Congress’s doctor said on Tuesday in a statement that did not explain what caused the incidents.

In a one-paragraph letter to the 81-year-old lawmaker, Dr. Brian Monahan said he reached his conclusion after a comprehensive neurological assessment that included the results of brain MRI imaging, an EEG (electroencephalogram) study and consultations with several neurologists.

McConnell, the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, had been sidelined for weeks after he tripped at a Washington dinner on March 8 and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of a concussion and a minor rib fracture. He returned to the Senate in April.

“There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack) or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease,” Monahan wrote. “There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 fall.”

McConnell’s office declined to answer a request for further detail on what doctors believe caused the incidents. His staff released the letter as the Senate prepared to reconvene after a lengthy summer recess.

The Kentucky lawmaker waved to reporters on Tuesday as he left his Washington area home for the U.S. Capitol, dressed in khaki slacks and a blue sport jacket. He was expected to speak on the Senate floor later on Tuesday, a spokesperson said.

Twice in the last six weeks, McConnell has frozen up during public appearances.

The latest incident occurred last Wednesday during a press conference in Kentucky, where he froze for more than 30 seconds and stared into space before being escorted away. A similar incident occurred in the U.S. Capitol on July 26 as McConnell spoke to reporters.

His office at the time described the events as being the result of lightheadedness and dehydration.

The two incidents have raised fresh questions among Republican and Democratic members of Congress about McConnell and other aging lawmakers.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, was sidelined for months this year after a bout of shingles that caused complications including encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can cause facial paralysis.

The Senate will have urgent work ahead, including passing legislation to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.

McConnell in the past has typically played an important role in negotiating and passing spending bills.

Without congressional action, the federal government would begin to partially shut down in October.

McConnell has served as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021 and as Senate minority leader since then. Democrats, including three independents who vote with them, hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, when all senators are present.

Reporting by David Morgan, Makini Brice and Jasper Ward; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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