UNITED STATES NEWS

Senate GOP leader McConnell briefly leaves news conference after freezing up midsentence

Jul 26, 2023, 11:52 AM | Updated: 6:30 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference Wednesday after stopping his remarks midsentence 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.”

The Kentucky senator 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. After sitting down in his office for several minutes, McConnell later returned to the press conference and answered questions from the press.

McConnell, 81, was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head after a dinner event at a hotel. He was hospitalized for several days, and his office later said he suffered a concussion and fractured a rib. His speech has sounded more halting in recent weeks, prompting questions among some of his colleagues about his health.

When he returned to answer questions, McConnell said he was “fine.” Asked if he is still able to do his job, he said, “Yeah.”

McConnell’s office declined to say whether he was seen by a doctor after the episode.

After the press conference, Barrasso told reporters he “wanted to make sure everything was fine” and walked McConnell down the hall to his office.

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.”

Walking out of his office Wednesday evening, McConnell again told reporters he was fine. He said President Joe Biden had called him.

“The president called to check up on me, and I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell joked, referencing a quote from Biden in June after he tripped over a sandbag and fell while onstage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation.

First elected to the Senate in 1984, McConnell became the longest-serving Senate party leader in history in January. He was easily reelected to his leadership post that same month, despite a challenge from Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

Still, several Republicans, including No. 2 Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Barrasso, are seen as waiting in the wings to someday replace him.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is also seen as a potential candidate to succeed McConnell, told reporters after the episode, “I support Senator McConnell as long as he wants to serve as leader.”

McConnell had polio in his early childhood and he has long acknowledged some difficulty as an adult in climbing stairs. In addition to his fall in March, he also tripped and fell four years ago at his home in Kentucky, causing a shoulder fracture that required surgery.

The Republican leader is one of several senators who have been absent due to health issues this year. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, 90, was out of the Senate for more than two months as she recovered from a bout of shingles. And Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., 53, took leave for several weeks to get treatment for clinical depression.

__

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

Law enforcement officials in 4 states report temporary 911 outages

Law enforcement agencies in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas reported temporary outages to 911 services before saying hours later that services had been restored. It was not immediately clear what caused the outages or whether they were related. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said in statement posted on social media Wednesday night […]

46 minutes ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: World shares are mixed after a tech-led retreat on Wall Street

World shares were mixed on Thursday after sinking technology stocks sent Wall Street lower again. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.1% to 17,756.81 while the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.4% to 8,010.04. In London, the FTSE 100 edged 0.1% higher, to 7,857.46. The future for the S&P 500 was up 0.3% while that for the Dow […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Takeaways from this week’s reports on the deadly 2023 Maui fire that destroyed Lahaina

HONOLULU (AP) — More than half a year after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century burned through a historic Maui town, officials are still trying to determine exactly what went wrong and how to prevent similar catastrophes in the future. But two reports released this week are filling in some of the […]

9 hours ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Oklahoma man arrested after authorities say he threw a pipe bomb at Satanic Temple in Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP) — An Oklahoma man was arrested Wednesday after authorities accused him of throwing a pipe bomb at the Massachusetts headquarters of a group called The Satanic Temple. The Salem-based group says on its website that it campaigns for secularism and individual liberties, and that its members don’t actually worship Satan. Sean Patrick Palmer, […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Ellen Ash Peters, first female chief justice of Connecticut Supreme Court, dies at 94

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Ellen Ash Peters, who was the first woman to serve as Connecticut’s chief justice and wrote the majority opinion in the state Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation ruling in 1996, has died. She was 94. Peters, who also was the first female faculty member at Yale Law School, passed away Tuesday, […]

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Senate GOP leader McConnell briefly leaves news conference after freezing up midsentence