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Mitch McConnell appears to freeze again while talking to reporters in Kentucky

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, right, on July 27. On Wednesday McConnell appeared to freeze while talking to reporters at a Kentucky event.
J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch of Idaho on July 27.

Updated August 31, 2023 at 2:28 p.m. ET

Sen. Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze momentarily at an event in Covington, Ky., after having been asked by a reporter about running for reelection in 2026.

It's the second time that the 81-year-old Republican seemed briefly unable to speak in public in a little over a month.

At Wednesday's press conference in Northern Kentucky, McConnell trailed off and paused after he was asked whether he would run for reelection. A staffer then joined McConnell at the podium and repeated the question for him.

In all, the six-term senator silently held on to the podium silently for about 30 seconds and failed to answer the posed question.

McConnell then fielded two more questions. In response to a question about Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's bid for governor to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, he said he thought it would be a "very close race." When asked about former President Donald Trump's indictment in Georgia, he said he "wasn't going to comment on the presidential race."

Both times, an aide repeated the reporters' questions for the senator.

According to McConnell spokesperson Stephanie Penn, the senator was feeling "momentarily lightheaded" during the news conference. A member of McConnell's office said he would consult a doctor before his next engagement.

Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician at the U.S. Congress, said in a statement Thursday that he had consulted with McConnell and conferred with his neurology team.

"After evaluating yesterday's incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned," Monahan said. "Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration."

At a weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol in late July, McConnell appeared to suffer a similar incident. He froze mid-sentence for roughly 30 seconds and then was led away. He returned to answer more questions afterwards.

When reporters asked him about that incident and whether it was related to his health issues after a fall earlier this year when he suffered a concussion, he said, "I'm fine," and told reporters he was able to do his job.

McConnell has appeared and spoken at several events since then, including the raucous Fancy Farm political picnic in western Kentucky, where he promised that it wouldn't be his last appearance.

In a news briefing later Wednesday, President Biden said he had just heard about McConnell's latest episode when asked about it by a reporter.

"We have disagreements politically, but he's a good friend," Biden said. "So I'm going to try and get in touch with him later this afternoon. I don't know enough to know."

McConnell's health concerns have come amid increased scrutiny of the aging members of Congress. It also raised questions about changes to how Kentucky replaces its U.S. senators in the event of a vacancy.

While the U.S. Constitution allows legislatures to empower governors to appoint replacements, a select few states have placed additional restrictions. In Kentucky, the state legislature passed a law in 2021 requiring the governor to choose from a list of three potential appointees selected by the party of the departing senator.

That change happened in 2021, shortly after McConnell won reelection.

Copyright 2023 Louisville Public Media. To see more, visit Louisville Public Media.

Sylvia Goodman
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