Wednesday afternoon delivered a moment of surprise and speculation as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) abruptly paused mid-sentence during a press conference, stirring up media attention to his health.
McConnell had commenced his weekly remarks, “After finishing the NDA, this week, in good bipartisan cooperation, in a string of—” he said, but then silence pervaded the room. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), also a physician, quickly suggested a halt to proceedings, prompting McConnell to retire to his office for a breather.
The top leadership of the US Government is extremely old — they stay around forever, clinging to power as tightly as they can, petrified to give it up — and so we have more and more upsetting scenes like this.
Best wishes to Sen. McConnell's health, but this is gerontocracy. https://t.co/2lcGyif4Rt
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 26, 2023
The incident prompted questions regarding McConnell’s health, given his history of previous ailments. However, McConnell returned to answer questions from the media, quashing any concerns of immediate distress. He stated, “No, I’m fine,” to inquiries about his health later Wednesday afternoon.
Interestingly, the 81-year-old Senator took a lighter approach when he reemerged, drawing parallels between his brief freeze and Joe Biden’s recent stumble during the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement ceremony. McConnell playfully stated he had been “sandbagged,” instilling humor into an event that had attracted significant attention.
McConnell’s response to earlier’s incident: “The president called to check on me. I told him I got sandbagged”
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) July 27, 2023
But the question remains: was McConnell’s abrupt freeze a result of an unresolved health concern or a mere stumble similar to the one he joked about?
While some expressed worries, including unnamed Republican senators who suggested McConnell may be dealing with the lingering effects of a previous fall and subsequent hospitalization, there were also strong voices of support. Some of McConnell’s fellow Republican senators have reaffirmed their support.
Barrasso, in particular, praised McConnell, stating, “He has made a remarkable recovery, he’s doing a great job leading our conference.” Furthermore, he commented on McConnell’s composure post-incident, “He was able to answer every question that the press asked him today, he answered more questions than he normally does.”
Through Thursday morning, reports indicate that McConnell will continue his leadership duties unimpeded for now.
While the incident has prompted speculation about McConnell’s future, the Senator appears unfazed. He remains devoted to his duties and dismissive of any health concerns. Whether he will seek re-election in 2026 is yet to be seen. For now, the GOP must focus on presenting a convincing message and strong leadership to voters nationwide as the critical 2024 elections approach if the party expects to have a realistic chance of retaking control of the Senate.