Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) froze for almost 20 seconds while delivering his opening statement at a leadership press conference Wednesday afternoon, prompting murmurs of concern among his colleagues and the assembled press corps.
McConnell told reporters the Senate was on a path to complete work on the annual defense authorization bill and praised what he called “good bipartisan cooperation” before freezing midsentence and staring straight ahead without uttering another word.
The awkward and potentially scary moment prompted a couple members of his leadership team to reach out to see if he was OK.
“Are you good, Mitch?” asked Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairwoman Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), putting her hand on the back of his arm.
“Are you okay, Mitch?” asked Senate Republican Conference Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a doctor, who put his hand on McConnell’s right forearm. “Anything else you want to say?
“Let’s go back to your office,” said Barrasso. “Do you want to say anything else to the press? Let’s go back.”
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McConnell, however, appeared reluctant to leave the press conference.
Barrasso then exchanged some remarks with one of McConnell’s aides and soon after led the GOP leader down the hall toward his office.
McConnell, who is 81 years old, returned to the press conference before the other members of his leadership team finished their remarks and took the first question from reporters, as he usually does every Wednesday.
CNN’s Manu Raju asked McConnell to address what happened, and whether it was related to health effects from suffering a concussion earlier this year.
“No, I’m fine,” McConnell answered.
“You’re fine, you’re fully able to do your job?” the reporter pressed.
“Yeah,” McConnell answered.
He then went on to answer reporters’ questions about an unraveling plea deal between federal prosecutors and Hunter Biden, the prospect of impeachment proceedings in the House and the schedule for considering the annual appropriations bills.
An aide to McConnell said the GOP leader “felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment.”
“He came back to handle Q and A, which everyone observed was sharp,” the aide added.
McConnell was hospitalized earlier this year after falling and suffering a concussion at a private dinner on March 9 at the Waldorf Astoria.
He was discharged from the hospital after a few days and entered an in-patient rehabilitation facility. He returned home on March 25 to resume his rehabilitation work and was back at work in the Capitol on April 17.
Updated 3:32 p.m.