WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — As U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains in the hospital following a recent fall, details on his condition are scarce.
Per a recent report from The Hill, members of 81-year-old Senator’s own leadership team have not been in contact with him, and do not know the details of how serious his injury may be.
Speaking to The Hill, South Dakota Senator John Thune, the Senate Minority Whip, said that McConnell tripped and fell at a reception and dinner for the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, but said “we just really don’t know much at this point.”
Thune said he was not present when McConnell fell.
The U.S. Senate is overseen by a pair of constitutionally mandated officers, these being the sitting Vice President, who serves as President of the Senate, and the Senate President Pro Tempore, who presides over the Senate in the absence of the Vice President. The current Senate President is U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and the current Pro Tempore is Washington Democrat Patty Murray.
Beyond these constitutionally mandated officers, there are also political officers. The most influential of these is the Majority Leader, who is selected by members of the majority party. The Majority Leader, serving as Senate head of the majority party, has control over the Senate agenda, able to influence which bills get to the floor for debate, and can even control whether or not certain appointments regarding Senate approval, such as Supreme Court Justices, can get hearings. This office is currently held by New York Democrat Charles Schumer.
Below the Majority Leader is the Senate Majority Whip, who serves as the assistant leader to the Majority Leader. The role of the Whip is generally to count heads and round up members of their party for votes. This office is currently held by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin.
These positions also are present for the minority party, where you have the Senate Minority Leader, currently McConnell, who fills the role of head of the Senate minority party, and ideally works with the Majority Leader to make agreements on policy and scheduling of bills for debate and votes.
Thune, who serves as the Senate Minority Whip is essentially the #2 Republican in the Senate behind McConnell. His role as the Whip is much the same as Durbin’s on the majority side.
According to the official Senate website, the Whip of either party will occasionally fill in for the leader in the event of their absence. Due to lack of information regarding McConnell’s status, we could see Thune step into the position of the Minority Leader in the event that McConnell is not able to return soon. In this case, Thune would work more closely with Schumer and the White House in negotiations over policy and legislation, as well as taking a more active role in organizing the Senate Republican Caucus.
KELOLAND News has reached out to Thune’s office for information regarding his role as Whip in light of McConnell’s hospitalization. In an emailed response, we were directed to a recording of his remarks before the Senate Thursday morning.
At the start of this address, which would go on to be about agriculture, Thune offered thoughts and prayers on behalf of himself and his colleagues, and said he looks forward to McConnell’s speedy return.