The Biden administration may have inadvertently signaled this week whom they fear the most of the Republican senators likely to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should the senator need to step down due to health issues.
The remarks from the administration come after McConnell temporarily froze for about 20 seconds during a press conference on Wednesday and needed to take a brief break after feeling lightheaded. McConnell later returned to the press conference and appeared fine when talking to reporters.
Politico reported that the White House has been worried about McConnell’s health because they view him as “a reliable partner in the effort to fund Ukraine’s resistance against Russia and ensure the government’s lights stay on past Sept. 30.”
The report said that Biden officials are now accelerating talks about what the Senate GOP leadership could look like if McConnell needs to step aside.
Biden’s inner circle reportedly believes that the most likely candidates to replace McConnell are Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD), Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
The Biden officials who spoke to Politico had positive things to say about Cornyn and Thune but did not say positive things about Barrasso. In fact, they said nothing about Barrasso, possibly because attacking him to the media could strengthen his support within the Republican Party.
“Most in Biden’s inner circle believe Thune would be the likely favorite to step in for McConnell,” the report said, “That, they feel, would be an acceptable option: Thune, they believe, largely shares McConnell’s worldview on the importance of institutions and the need, at times, to work across the aisle. They also feel that Thune is unchallenged politically back home, which aides believe is essential to leading from a position of strength. Similar views are held about Cornyn.”
A review of the three senators’ Liberty Score from the Conservative Review shows that Barrasso ranks in between the likes of Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). The same review ranks Cornyn — who got the first piece of major gun control legislation passed in the Senate last year for the first time since 1994 — and Thune on the same level as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
McConnell’s health has been in the news ever since he was hospitalized in early March after he fell during a private dinner at a hotel in Washington, D.C.
Following the incident this week, news reports began surfacing that the 81-year-old polio survivor has fallen at least two other times this year, including at an airport earlier this month and during an overseas trip in February, according to the Courier Journal.