September 8, 2023 9:00am

More than half of poll members think Sen. Mitch McConnell should resign because of health issues

Also: Supreme Court should reject Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan, and most members plan to get new COVID booster

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Lexington, KY Correspondent
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A majority of Lexington Power Poll members think Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history, should resign following two incidents when he froze for 20 or 30 seconds and was unable to speak while answering questions at news conferences.

Half of poll members think the U.S. Supreme Court should reject a bankruptcy agreement that would let the family that owns the company most responsible for Kentucky’s prescription drug crisis escape further liability.

And a large majority of poll members plan to get the new COVID vaccine, which is supposed to be released later this month and offer protection targeted at variants of the virus now in circulation.

McConnell, 81, who was first elected to the Senate in 1985, has appeared more frail since a fall in March in which he suffered a concussion. Concerns about his ability to lead Senate Republicans and adequately serve as a Senator have increased since his two freeze-ups.

McConnell has mostly brushed off questions about his medical condition, except to say he plans to finish his term as Senate minority leader, which expires next year, and his Senate term, which ends in 2026.

McConnell’s office released a letter from Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician at the U.S. Capitol, that said there was “no evidence” that seizures, strokes, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease were the reason for McConnell’s freeze-ups. Earlier, Monahan had speculated the freeze-ups were related to the concussion or dehydration.

But not everyone is persuaded, including Kentucky’s other Republican U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist.

“Everybody’s seen the clips,” Paul said. “It’s not a valid medical diagnosis for people to say that’s dehydration. I think it’d be better to be forthcoming about what’s going on with health problems.”

What should McConnell do now? Fifty-four percent of Power Poll members (112 people) thought he should resign now. Another 40 percent (84 members) thought he should finish out his term and then retire. Four percent (8 members) thought he should “keep on keeping on” and 2 percent (five members) had no opinion.

“It is difficult to opine on what Sen. McConnell should or should not do until he reveals what has been causing his problems and whether that is impairing his cognitive abilities,” said poll member Steve Byars, vice president of Moneywatch Advisors.

The second question this month involves the bankruptcy settlement of Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, a powerful time-release opioid pain reliever. The U.S. Supreme Court put the settlement on hold pending review because of concerns that it would relieve the Sackler family, which owned and aggressively managed the company’s marketing efforts, of future liability for civil damages.

Beginning in the 1990s, Pursue Pharma aggressively marketed OxyContin, targeting rural areas such as Central Appalachia, claiming the drug was not highly addictive when prescribed according to instructions. That was wrong, fueling a crisis of opioid addiction and death that forced the company into bankruptcy with more than 60,000 claims for damages. In the proposed bankruptcy settlement, the Sacklers agreed to pay $6 billion into the settlement, but they earned billions more from sales of the drug.

Power Poll members, by a margin of 50 percent (104 member) to 26 percent (54 members) thought the Supreme Court should reject the bankruptcy settlement. Fifty-one members (24 percent) had no opinion.

“There is no punishment sufficient to repay the debt of the tens of thousands of American deaths the Sackler family has caused directly due to its heartless greed,” said poll member Mark Green, editor of The Lane Report, a Lexington-based business publication. “Every asset of this family should be taken. Down to the last breadcrumb.”

This month’s last question involves the latest COVID vaccine, which is expected to be approved for use later this month.

This vaccine version targets new variants of the virus that caused the pandemic, offering more protection as infections are increasing. The easing of COVID infections before the past few weeks have caused many people to become more lax about vaccinations. And a significant number of people oppose vaccinations, based on debunked claims about the vaccine.

Seventy percent of Power Poll members (147 people) say they plan to get the new vaccine booster, while 17 percent (36 members) say they don’t plan to and 12 percent (26 members) haven’t made up their minds yet.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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