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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to lead the GOP for the remainder of the 118th Congress, according to a statement released by his Kentucky office on Friday.
“Questions about the future of McConnell, 81, were swiftly raised this week after he froze for 30 seconds during a news conference. The statement doesn’t address his plans for the next Congress, which begins in 2025,” CNN reported.
During the weekly Senate Republican Agenda press conference on Wednesday afternoon, McConnell was speaking to reporters when he suddenly froze. He remained at the podium for several seconds without speaking and his colleagues eventually stepped in to escort him away.
Later on Wednesday, he joked about getting a call from President Joe Biden with a number of congressional reporters. He returned shortly after to take questions.
“The president called to see how I was doing. McConnell told reporters, “I told him I got sandbagged.”
In March, McConnell suffered a fall at a Washington-area hotel and received extended treatment for a concussion. The longtime Kentucky senator fell after attending an event, injuring his head and fracturing a rib, the Associated Press reported.
Now, a new report from NBC’s Garrett Haake and Sahil Kapur alleges that sources said McConnell took a tumble while stepping off a plane at Reagan National Airport on July 14:
McConnell, 81, was not seriously hurt and was seen at the Capitol later that day, where he interacted with at least one reporter.
The July 14 fall, which has not been previously reported, occurred after the flight out of Washington was canceled while everyone was on board. McConnell, R-Ky., who was a passenger on the plane, had a “face plant,” someone who was on the plane at the time but did not witness the fall told NBC News. That passenger also said they spoke to another passenger who helped tend to McConnell after the fall.
The Senate’s top Republican has also recently been using a wheelchair as a precautionary measure when navigating crowded airports, according to a source familiar with his practices.
“McConnell has also recently been using a wheelchair as a precaution when he navigates crowded airports, said a source familiar with his practices. McConnell, a polio survivor who has long struggled to navigate stairs and other obstacles, has had a difficult recent history with falls. He sustained a concussion and a cracked rib in a fall in Washington this year, and he spent six weeks away from the Senate. He fractured a shoulder in a fall in Kentucky in 2019, requiring surgery,” NBC News reported.
“He’s definitely slower with his gait,” said a Republican senator, who allegedly spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The GOP senator added that in private meetings, McConnell “doesn’t address it,” referring to health issues.
The incident with McConnell on Wednesday set off a firestorm on social media.
CNN’s Manu Raju reported that when McConnell eventually came back to the press event, he told reporters that he was “fine,” and took a number of questions.
Raju subsequently heard from a McConnell aide that the GOP leader felt “lightheaded” when the episode happened.
“From a McConnell aide: ‘He felt light-headed and stepped away for a moment. He came back to handle Q and A, which as everyone observed was sharp,'” Raju tweeted.
From a McConnell aide: “He felt light headed and stepped away for a moment. He came back to handle Q and A, which as everyone observed was sharp.” https://t.co/MnuUzkpmLo
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 26, 2023
Reports back in March speculated that McConnell may have considered retirement after his fall that left him with a severe concussion.
“Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has been out of the public eye for weeks, following a serious fall that hospitalized him. Now multiple sources confirm that Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas, and John Thune of South Dakota are actively reaching out to fellow Republican senators in efforts to prepare for an anticipated leadership vote — a vote that would occur upon the announcement that McConnell would be retiring from his duties as leader, and presumably the Senate itself,” The Spectator reported at the time.