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Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley raised the alarm over the aging U.S. Senate, calling it “the most privileged nursing home in the country.”
Haley’s comments on the Senate came during a Thursday interview with Fox News, one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) froze for nearly 30 seconds during a press conference. McConnell’s freeze on Wednesday was the second time in the last month the GOP leader has had a health episode while speaking in front of the press.
Haley praised McConnell’s leadership, saying he has “done some great things,” but added, “you have to know when to leave.”
“No one should feel good about seeing that, any more than we should feel good about seeing [California Democratic Sen.] Dianne Feinstein, any more than we should feel good about a lot of what’s happening or seeing [President] Joe Biden’s decline,” Haley said. “What I will say is, right now, the Senate is the most privileged nursing home in the country.”
The 51-year-old presidential candidate said she supports mental competency tests for politicians who are 75 years old and above, and said she “wouldn’t care if they did them over the age of 50.”
“[T]hese are people making decisions on our national security. They’re making decisions on our economy, on the border,” Haley said. “We need to know they’re at the top of their game.”
A video clip posted to X from NBC affiliate WLWT on Wednesday showed the 81-year-old McConnell struggling to respond to a question about his thoughts on running for re-election in 2026.
“That’s uh…” he began to say in response before going silent for a few moments. A woman rushed to McConnell’s side and asked if he heard the question.
BREAKING NEWS: Sen. Mitch McConnell appearing to have another scary episode in the media gaggle in Covington today. Aides had to step in to help him out and repeat questions. He was eventually lead away. We'll have the full video on @WLWT pic.twitter.com/q9ex5MHxLV
— Hannah Thomas (@HannahPThomas) August 30, 2023
The Republican leader was cleared by a doctor to continue working the next day. The physician said, “Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration.”
McConnell sustained a concussion after a fall earlier this year, and reports came out after the top Republican’s news conference freeze in late July that he had fallen at least two other times in the preceding months.
Feinstein, who recently turned 90, was away from the Senate for 10 weeks earlier this year as she recovered from the shingles virus. The Democratic senator must now be pushed around Capitol Hill in a wheelchair, and immediately following her return to the Senate, Feinstein didn’t recall her 10-week absence.
“I haven’t been gone. You should … I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working,” Feinstein told a Los Angeles Times reporter.
“You’ve been working from home is what you’re saying?” the reporter asked.
“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know,” Feinstein said.
President Biden, 80, has also worried voters and members of Congress about his mental capacity. Biden has fallen, appeared lost, and said undistinguishable words multiple times while appearing in front of crowds and the press.
Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.