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Top US Republican cleared for return after second freeze

By Agence France-Presse Published Sep 02, 2023 9:29 am

A doctor cleared top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell to return to work Thursday, Aug. 31 after he appeared briefly unable to speak at a news conference, the second time in recent weeks the 81-year-old has abruptly frozen at a public event.

McConnell was answering reporters' questions in his home state of Kentucky on Wednesday when he fell suddenly silent for around 30 seconds, despite being prompted by an aide. 

"After evaluating yesterday's incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned," Brian Monahan, the congressional physician, said in a letter released by the Republican's office. 

"Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration."

It is the senator's second health scare in less than two months, after he froze mid-sentence during a July press conference in Congress and stood motionless at a microphone for about 20 seconds before aides and fellow senators led him away.

McConnell has been the top Republican in the US Senate since 2007, and wielded unflinching power as majority leader from 2015 to 2021.

In March, he was hospitalized after he tripped and fell during a private dinner. He suffered a concussion and a fractured rib, and spent six weeks away from the Senate, undergoing physical therapy.

An aide said on Wednesday that McConnell would consult with a physician before his next event.

President Joe Biden, whose relationship with McConnell as Senate colleagues stretches back nearly 40 years, said he spoke with his friend on Thursday.

"He was his old self on the telephone," Biden told reporters at a briefing on storm Idalia that ravaged parts of the southeastern US. "I'm confident he is going to be back to his old self." (AFP)