Senate GOP leader McConnell briefly leaves news conference after freezing up mid-sentence
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference on Wednesday after stopping his remarks mid-sentence and staring off into space for several seconds.
McConnell approached the podium for his weekly press conference and began speaking about the annual defense bill on the floor, which he said was proceeding with “good bipartisan cooperation.” But he then appeared to lose his train of thought, trailing off with a drawn-out “uh.”
He then appeared to freeze up and stared vacantly for around 20 seconds before his colleagues in Republican leadership, who were standing behind him and could not see his face, grabbed his elbows and asked if he wanted to go back to his office.
He did not answer, but slowly walked back to his office with an aide and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a former orthopedic surgeon who is the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. McConnell later returned to the press conference and answered questions from the press.
Asked about what happened, McConnell said he was “fine.” He did not elaborate.
A McConnell aide said he felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment. The aide requested anonymity to speak about the senator’s health.
McConnell, 81, was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head. His office later said he suffered a concussion and fractured a rib. His speech has recently sounded more halting, prompting questions among some of his colleagues about his health.
After the press conference, Barrasso told reporters that he “wanted to make sure everything was fine” and walked McConnell down the hall.
Barrasso said he has been concerned since McConnell was injured earlier this year, “and I continue to be concerned.”
But asked about his particular concerns, Barrasso said: “I said I was concerned when he fell and hit his head a number of months ago and was hospitalized. And I think he’s made a remarkable recovery, he’s doing a great job leading our conference and was able to answer every question the press asked him today.”