Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze for about 30 seconds while speaking to reporters after a speech in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday.
The incident is similar to an episode McConnell experienced at the US Capitol late last month and is likely to raise further questions about the fitness of the 81-year-old to lead the Senate Republican caucus.
McConnell froze during a July 2023 press conference
Wednesday’s episode happened when a reporter asked the Republican leader if he planned to run for re-election in 2026. McConnell had to repeat the question to him several times, smiled for a moment, then paused, closed his mouth and looked straight ahead.
Then someone by his side said, “Senator, have you asked the question of running for re-election in 2026?” he asked. McConnell did not respond.
“Excuse me everybody, we’re going to need a minute,” the aide told reporters. A member of the senator’s detail spoke to him quietly for a moment, and McConnell managed to whisper a reply to him.
McConnell turned to reporters and said, “Okay,” and his aide asked if anyone had any other questions and if reporters could “talk.”
A spokesman for McConnell told CNN that the Kentucky Republican “felt briefly bowed and suspended during his press conference today.” A McConnell aide added: “He’s feeling better, and as a prudent move, the president will see a doctor before his next event.”
McConnell, the Senate Republican leader since 2007, has faced questions about his health throughout the year. He was treated for a concussion and broken ribs in a fall at a Washington hotel in March, and returned to the Senate several weeks later.
In late July, McConnell froze for 30 seconds during a news conference on Capitol Hill. At the time, his office said the Kentucky Republican was “lightheaded,” and Republicans later said he was dehydrated. Speaking to reporters after the incident, McConnell insisted he was “fine.”
McConnell and his top deputy, Senate Republican Whip John Thune, spoke this afternoon after Wednesday’s incident.
“The leader sounded like his usual self and was in good spirits,” said Tune spokesman Ryan Vras.
President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he plans to try to “reach out” to McConnell.
“Mitch’s a friend, you know — not a joke, and I know people don’t believe that. We have differences politically, but he’s a good friend, so I’m going to try to contact him this afternoon. About the federal response to Hurricane Italia and the Maui wildfires. Biden told reporters following the remarks.
This story has been updated with additional information.