Nikki Haley suggests Mitch McConnell should step aside amid health concerns

<span>Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP</span>

Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has suggested her fellow Republican Mitch McConnell – the longtime powerful US Senate leader – should step aside after an episode in which he physically froze and was unable to speak at the Capitol this week.

Related: Mitch McConnell fell earlier this month, before freezing mid-sentence this week

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Haley was asked by the host Margaret Brennan whether she still had confidence in McConnell’s ability to lead after the episode.

“I think Mitch McConnell did an amazing job when it comes to our judiciary, when we look at the judges, when we look at the supreme court he’s been a great leader,” said Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ex-United Nations ambassador during the Donald Trump presidency. “But we’ve gotta stop electing people because they look good in a picture and they hold a baby well.”

She also said the 90-year-old US senator Dianne Feinstein, the 80-year-old president Joe Biden, and 83-year-old congresswoman Nancy Pelosi – all of whom are prominent Democrats – should “know when to walk away”.

Haley has called for congressional term limits and mental acuity tests for politicans aged 75 and above.

A spokesperson for McConnell, 81, said last week that he intends to fulfill his term, which ends in 2026. He has led the US Senate’s Republican conference since 2007. McConnell’s office said that the senator felt lightheaded but has not released more details on what caused the episode in question.

McConnell was hospitalized after he fell onstage earlier this year, leaving him with a concussion and a fractured rib. He also fell in Finland earlier this year while getting off an airplane at Reagan national airport in Washington DC.

McConnell survived polio as a child, though the illness has long affected his gait.

Publicly, Senate Republicans have backed McConnell. Yet anonymously, some have been more circumspect.

One Republican senator told NBC News that McConnell has been relying more on his lieutenants and suggested he should step down.

“I’d hate to see it forced on him,” that senator said, according to NBC. “You can do these things with dignity, or it becomes less dignified. And I hope he does it in a dignified way – for his own legacy and reputation.”

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