Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze up for more than 30 seconds on Wednesday during a public appearance before he was escorted away - the second such incident in little more than a month.
Mr McConnell, 81, was responding to questions from reporters after an event with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Covington when he froze up, staring into space and not responding to reporters and others nearby.
The incident, captured in a clip from an NBC News affiliate, raised fresh questions among Republican and Democratic members of Congress about some of their ageing colleagues.
After being approached by a second person, Mr McConnell resumed speaking but needed reporters’ questions repeated to him and only answered two more questions.
The longest-serving Senate party leader in history, Mr McConnell’s voice was shaky and quiet.
The incident was similar to one that took place in the US Capitol on July 26, when Mr McConnell froze in the middle of a press conference and had to be led away, returning several minutes later to finish taking questions.
After that incident, a McConnell aide said the senator had felt light-headed. Two days later, a spokesperson said that McConnell planned to remain in his leadership post through the 2024 election.
Just in: Sen. Mitch McConnell was in the middle of a media gaggle when he appeared to have trouble hearing and answering questions and was eventually led out by aides. More: https://t.co/6Q2PXhiHyb pic.twitter.com/DHTK1K8kYy
— WLWT (@WLWT) August 30, 2023
Mr McConnell froze on Wednesday after being asked whether he intended to run again in 2026, when his six-year term is up.
An aide for Mr McConnell said the senator would be consulting with a physician prior to his next public event. The Senate is due to reconvene on Tuesday after a five week-long summer recess.
“Leader McConnell felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today,” Mr McConnell’s spokesperson said.
Mr McConnell had previously been sidelined from the Senate after he tripped at a Washington dinner on March 8 and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of a concussion. He also suffered a minor rib fracture and was later moved to a rehabilitation facility. He returned to the Senate in April.
Many top figures in Washington are of advanced age, with President Joe Biden running for reelection at 80 and the average age in the Senate above 64.
A majority of Americans, some 61 per cent, told a November Reuters/Ipsos poll they were very or somewhat concerned that members of Congress are too old to represent the American people.
Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, is 77.
Mr McConnell has served as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021 and as Senate minority leader since then. Democrats, including three independents who vote with them, currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, when all senators are present.