Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell experienced a concerning moment during a weekly Republican leadership news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
As he was giving his opening remarks about an annual defense policy bill, he suddenly stopped speaking and appeared to freeze. For a disconcerting 19 seconds, McConnell remained silent. His fellow Republican colleagues became visibly worried and asked if he was okay.
Senator John Barrasso, who is also a physician, stepped in to escort McConnell away from the cameras and reporters to ensure his well-being.
During this episode, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa made a hand gesture that initially resembled the sign of the cross, which raised further concerns. However, her office clarified later that she was motioning for Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota.
A few minutes later, McConnell returned to the news conference by himself. Reporters immediately inquired about his health, and he assured them that he was “fine.” When asked whether he was fully able to do his job, McConnell replied, “Yeah.”
Although McConnell stated that he was fine, an aide added that he had felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment. Despite the brief scare, McConnell displayed his usual sharpness and clarity during the Q&A session with reporters.
McConnell later spoke briefly to reporters again as he left the Capitol, revealing that President Joe Biden had called to check on him. Lightening the mood, he jokingly said, “I told him I got sandbagged.”
The Senate Minority Leader previously had a health incident on March 8, when he tripped and fell after an event for the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC aligned with McConnell and GOP leadership. The fall resulted in a concussion and a minor rib fracture, and he was hospitalized until March 13 before undergoing rehab. He returned to the Senate in mid-April.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who met with McConnell after the news conference, confirmed that there were no concerns about his health during their meeting. McConnell, a seasoned senator who has served since 1985, is not up for re-election until the 2026 midterm elections.