In a surprising turn of events, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell caused a momentary stir during a routine Republican leadership news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
As he began discussing an annual defense policy bill, McConnell suddenly paused mid-sentence, seemingly frozen in thought, and then fell silent for an unexpected 19 seconds. Concerned colleagues inquired about his well-being, prompting Senator John Barrasso, a physician and a top McConnell deputy, to escort him away from the cameras and reporters.
During this brief intermission, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa made a hand gesture that was later clarified to be a signal for Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota. Moments later, McConnell reappeared unaccompanied at the news conference. When asked about his health, he reassured everyone that he was perfectly fine and fully capable of carrying out his duties.
An aide shed some light on the incident, explaining that McConnell had felt lightheaded and took a moment to step away. However, upon his return, he confidently handled the Q&A session, demonstrating his usual sharpness.
Curiosity arose when McConnell mentioned that the President had called to check on him. In a light-hearted manner, McConnell jokingly shared that he had felt “sandbagged” by the surprising call from President Joe Biden.
Following the event, a spokesperson for McConnell and a White House official confirmed that the two leaders indeed had a phone conversation on Wednesday night. Though the exact details of their conversation were not disclosed, it appeared to be a courteous exchange between political counterparts.
As of now, the incident remains a momentary episode, and McConnell assured everyone that there was no cause for concern regarding his health or ability to fulfill his responsibilities. With his characteristic determination, McConnell continues to lead the Republican party in the Senate, undeterred by this unusual incident.