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McConnell freezes during news conference, prompting colleagues' concern

Mitch McConnell freezes during news conference
Mitch McConnell freezes mid-sentence during news conference, prompting health concerns 02:08

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze during his opening remarks at the weekly Senate Republican press conference on Wednesday, seemingly unable to speak. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who is also a physician, approached him and spoke quietly with him, and the two walked away from the podium.

The top Senate Republican eventually returned to handle questions, but not before arousing the concern of his colleagues. A McConnell aide later said he "felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment."

McConnell, 81, was discussing the Senate's progress on the National Defense Authorization Act when he ceased speaking. Barrasso asked him, "You OK, Mitch?" He asked if the Republican leader wanted to return to his office and helped McConnell away from the podium. Sen. John Thune, the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, took over the press conference. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell CBS News

When McConnell returned to the podium a short time later, reporters asked what happened, and whether his sudden break in his remarks was related to his injury earlier this year, when he suffered a concussion from a fall.

"I'm fine," the top Senate Republican responded.

"You're fine? You're fully able to do your job," a reporter asked.

"Yeah," McConnell replied.

Briefly addressing reporters outside his office Wednesday night, McConnell disclosed that he received a call from President Biden. 

"Well, the president called to check on me, and I told him I got sandbagged," McConnell said. This was in reference to Mr. Biden having tripped over a sandbag while on stage for a commencement ceremony last month at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. 

 When asked how he was feeling, he again responded, "I'm fine."

Following the incident, Barrasso also said he went back to McConnell's office to make sure he was OK, but believes McConnell is fine, since he returned and took questions. He said he had some concerns after McConnell's fall, but the Senate minority leader continues to do a "great job" leading the conference. 

"I'm a doctor, I'm just not his doctor," Barrasso told reporters. "He answered questions, and he was fine."

Still, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said he wants to know "what went wrong" at the press conference. 

McConnell's fellow Senate Republicans said he should remain the GOP leader. 

McConnell, a polio survivor, has served in the Senate since 1985.

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