Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was first elected to his position in 1984. Thereafter, the voters of Kentucky elected him another six times, with his last victory occurring in 2020. Nonetheless, at the age of eighty-one, there are questions about whether McConnell will be able to serve the entirety of his latest six-year term, which does not end until 2026.
When he was asked that question by a reporter at a recent event in Kentucky, McConnell “froze.” He stopped talking and stared blankly ahead without answering the question.
Ultimately, an aide assisted him, and he was eventually able to resume answering questions. A similar incident occurred at a press briefing at the U.S. Capitol in July. At that time, he was rescued by U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a medical doctor.
Both incidents occurred after Senator McConnell suffered a serious fall and concussion at an event in March at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Washington D.C. McConnell was sidelined for six weeks recovering from the mishap and has not been the same since.
If McConnell is “freezing” in front of cameras, there are concerns that he is doing it at other times. In these situations, and probably quite often, McConnell is totally dependent on his aides.
A person in his condition should not serve as Senate Minority Leader. In fact, he should not be in the U.S. Senate at all. The best course of action for McConnell would be to immediately retire and seek treatment for his serious health problems. In his condition, he is doing a disservice to the voters in Kentucky by remaining a U.S. Senator.
Along with McConnell, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) should also retire. She is 90 years old and is well past her prime. She must be told how to vote by her aides, who keep her public appearances to a bare minimum. Like McConnell, Feinstein has been in the U.S. Senate for decades, first getting elected in 1992.
On this issue, former South Carolina Governor, and current GOP presidential candidate, Nikki Haley is correct. She termed the U.S. Senate the “most privileged nursing home in the country.” Haley also called on McConnell to retire, noting that “you have to know when to leave.”
Unfortunately, McConnell has no intention of leaving, especially after receiving the backing of his Senate Republican colleagues. In a CNN interview on Sunday, U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), praised McConnell as “sharp and shrewd.” Furthermore, Rounds said “there is no doubt in my mind that he is perfectly capable of continuing on at this stage of the game and he has a good team around him.”
His performance is certainly not earning accolades nationwide. In a recent survey, an astounding 42% of Americans held a “very unfavorable” opinion of McConnell, while only 3% had a “very favorable” opinion.
It is not much better for McConnell in his home state of Kentucky. According to an April 2023 Morning Consult poll, McConnell was the “least popular” member of the U.S. Senate. In Kentucky, McConnell received a favorability rating of only 28%, while 64% held an unfavorable opinion of his performance.
Sadly, McConnell and his Senate Republican friends do not care that he is unfit for the position or that, by a wide margin, voters in Kentucky and across the nation, are unhappy with the work he is doing. Their priority is to retain their power, benefits, and prestige as their all-encompassing ego demands nothing less.
America will not solve this problem until the passage of congressional term limits, which has the bi-partisan and overwhelming support of the American people. A recent University of Maryland poll found 83% of Americans favor congressional term limits, including 80% of Democrats and 86% of Republicans.
This is one of the few issues that has staunch support on both sides of the political spectrum. It is also an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign as Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump have all expressed support for congressional term limits.
While Americans favor congressional term limits, Congress has refused to act. According to Steven Kull, Director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, there is a “perception that Congress is not responsive to the people, that Congress has become too comfortable, too safe.”
In 1995, a congressional vote on term limits failed, but it is time to vote again. Since it is a constitutional amendment, it will require two-thirds support.
It is time for U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to fulfill his commitment to the Freedom Caucus and bring the issue to a vote. Let us see which members of Congress listen to “We the People.”