Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made light of a health scare on Wednesday, saying he had told President Joe Biden that he too had been ‘sandbagged’ after freezing up mid-sentence during a press conference.
The 81-year-old Republican was speaking at his leadership briefing earlier when he stopped abruptly, unable to complete his sentence.
Aides later said McConnell had been feeling ‘light-headed’ prior to making his remarks.
But coming not long after he suffered a concussion from a fall, it raised fresh questions about his ability to do his job and the advanced age of so many of the nation’s political leaders.
‘There’s been good bipartisan cooperation and a string of er … ‘ he said before stopping and staring into space as he shifted uneasily on his feet.
He stood frozen awkwardly for more than 20 seconds in front of the assembled cameras before colleagues stepped in to help.
Later, McConnell told reporters that the president had called to ask after his well-being. He said he told Biden he had been ‘sandbagged,’ a reference to president’s quip after stumbling over two sandbags at an Air Force Academy graduation in June.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell suddenly stopped talking and had to be walked away from the podium during his press conference on Wednesday
“Are you OK?’ asked Sen. John Barrasso, a former orthopedic surgeon and the third most senior Republican in the Senate, as he took his arm. ‘Anything else you want to say or should we just go back to your office?’
After a few moments, he guided McConnell away from the lectern towards his office.
Another GOP Senator John Thune carried on with the press conference, before McConnell returned and said: ‘I’m fine’.
When a reporter asked if he felt he can fully do his job, McConnell said ‘yes’ and continued.
A McConnell aide later said that he felt ‘light-headed’ and stepped away for a moment.
‘But he came back and was sharp for the Q and A,’ added the aide.
McConnell’s office did not offer any details about whether he would receive any further tests or treatments.
It comes months after he was released from hospital following a fall during dinner in Washington D.C.
The top Republican in the Senate arrived for his leadership briefing as normal on Wednesday
But he stood frozen for 20 seconds as he tried to deliver his opening remarks in front of assembled reporters and cameras
Sen. John Barrasso helped him back to his office where he spent a few minutes recovering
He suffered a concussion and broken rib when he tripped and hit his head at the Waldorf Astoria and was admitted to hospital for treatment for a week
He suffered a concussion and broken rib when he tripped and hit his head at the Waldorf Astoria and was admitted to hospital for treatment for a week.
He needed six weeks to recover.
‘It’s good to be back,’ he said after returning to work. ‘Suffice to say, this wasn’t the first time being hard-headed has served me very well.’
He had polio during early childhood and has admitted that he sometimes has difficulty climbing stairs.
The latest episode will spark further questions about the growing number of politicians remaining in post even after the age of 80, when most people would have retired.
Joe Biden is already the oldest president in history and would be 86 if he wins next year’s election and completes his second term.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, says she will retire after the 2024 midterm election – but not before
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, missed weeks away from Washington with shingles earlier this year.
Complications included encephalitis and she has struggled with memory issues. She has announced her retirement at the end of her term in 2025 but has said she has no intention of stepping down earlier despite frequent reports that she is no longer up to the rigorous demands if life in a divided Senate.
McConnell joined the Senate in 1985. He does not face re-election until the 2026 midterm elections.
The issue has forced its way into the 2024 campaign.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley launched her run by calling for competency tests for politicians older than 75.
‘In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,’ she said. ‘We’ll have term limits for Congress.
‘And mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.’