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For The Second Time, Sen. Mitch McConnell Appears to Freeze During News Conference

Senator Mitch McConnell, the longtime Republican leader, appeared to freeze for about 30 seconds during an exchange with reporters at an event in his home state of Kentucky on Wednesday. It was the second time that he has appeared unable to speak at a news conference in recent weeks.

The incident occurred after McConnell, 81, was asked about running for re-election in 2026. The Senate Minority leader twice asked the reporter to repeat the question, then stammered briefly and stopped speaking. After McConnell stared ahead for roughly 10 seconds, an aide stepped in and asked whether he had heard the question. McConnell replied that he did but continued to look off into the distance.

“All right, I’m sorry, you all. We’re going to need a minute,” the aide said. McConnell regained his composure after roughly 30 seconds of silence, answering two other questions posed to him, though both needed to be repeated.

A McConnell spokesperson later said that the Senator "felt momentarily lightheaded,” and will consult a doctor before his next event as "a prudential measure,” according to an aide.

The latest incident is likely to raise additional questions about McConnell’s overall health, and his ability to lead the Senate Republican caucus, which will be tasked with averting a government shutdown in the coming weeks—needing to pass 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills before Sept. 30. McConnell notably took a back seat role during this summer’s talks over the debt ceiling, deferring to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to lead negotiations with the White House despite McConnell’s history of reaching agreements with Democrats.

Health concerns are not a new issue for the Senator: he was treated for a concussion and fractured rib after falling at a hotel in Washington in March, returning to the Senate several weeks later. A survivor of polio as a child, McConnell is often seen walking on stairs one at a time, resting a hand on aides for balance. Previous falls have caused serious injuries, including a fractured shoulder in 2019 when he fell at his Louisville home.

In late July, McConnell froze mid-sentence during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill and was briefly escorted away from the microphones. His office said at the time that he was “lightheaded,” while Republicans later claimed that he was dehydrated.

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com