With McConnell seemingly unable to continue, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a physician, approached the minority leader and after asking if he was okay and if he wanted to go back to his office, led him away from the podium.
Minority Whip Senator John Thune (R-SD) then took over for McConnell until the minority leader eventually returned to the podium prompting questions from reporters on what had happened.
When asked if the freeze had anything to do with the head injury he sustained earlier this year, the minority leader said he was fine. Another reporter asked the 81-year-old McConnell if he was “fully able” to do his job, to which the Kentucky senator replied, “Yeah.”
An aide to the minority leader later told reporters that McConnell “felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment.”
When speaking to reporters outside of his office later Wednesday evening, McConnell said President Biden had called to check on him and he jokingly told the president “I got sandbagged,” a reference to Biden’s recent fall at the US Air Force Academy graduation last month.
Senator Barrasso said he also went to check on McConnell at his office to make sure he was all right. He told reporters that he had some concerns about McConnell given his previous concussion, but added that while he is a doctor, he isn’t McConnell’s doctor. Barrasso pointed out that McConnell was able to return to the podium and answer questions, adding “he was fine.”
While Senate Republicans all said McConnell should remain the leader of the Senate GOP, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters that he would like to know “what went wrong” during the press conference.
The 81-year-old McConnell has been in the US Senate since 1985.