Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed unable to respond to reporters’ questions during a press event in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday.
McConnell, 81, was asked whether he would run for reelection. At first, he appeared to have not heard the question. When the reporter asked again, the senator did not immediately respond.
His aide quickly stepped in and asked, “Did you hear the question, senator?” before repeating the question to him.
“All right, I’m sorry, you all. We’re going to need a minute,” the aide told reporters, as McConnell stood there.
After a pause that lasted almost 30 seconds, McConnell said, “OK,” signaling to the reporters that he was ready to answer more questions. Meanwhile, his aide asked the reporters to speak up.
McConnell spokesperson, White House issue comment
A spokesperson for McConnell said that the senator was “momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today,” adding that he now feels fine and will consult a physician before his next event, according to CNN.
This is the second time in recent months that McConnell, R-Ky., has frozen while making a public appearance. The senator abruptly stopped speaking for 15 seconds while giving his remarks at a press conference in July, according to CBS News. He was then escorted out by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a physician, and returned after a few minutes to answer questions.
These incidents cast doubt on how much longer he will be able to serve as the Republican leader in the Senate.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that she has not spoken to President Joe Biden about McConnell yet but added: “We wish him well (and) a speedy recovery.”
“As you know, the two of them have worked together and known each other for some time, but I can’t speak to a call or a conversation, I just haven’t asked the president about that,” she said.
McConnell’s current term ends on January 3, 2027. He isn’t the only Senate lawmaker whose poor health has been a cause of concern in Congress.
Questions about senators health extends across aisle
Sen. Dianne Feinstein was hospitalized earlier this month after experiencing a “minor fall” in her home in San Francisco, as the Deseret News reported. At 90 years of age, she is the oldest sitting U.S. senator.
Earlier this year, she was absent from Congress for three months due to a complicated recovery from shingles.
Her extended leave caused delays in judicial nominations and other Senate business, prompting Feinstein’s Democratic colleagues, like Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., to call for her resignation.
Voters are also concerned about older presidents
The issue of aging politicians goes beyond Congress — Biden, 80, is prone to verbal stumbles, while former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner for the 2024 election who is only three years younger than Biden, is known for his rambling speeches.
A new poll found that 77% of Americans believe Biden is too old to be an effective president, and just over half of American adults think the same about Trump, as Deseret News reported.