By MARY CLARE JALONICK and LISA MASCARO
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was being treated Thursday for a concussion and is expected to remain in the hospital for “a few days” after he tripped and fell at a hotel dinner the night before, his spokesman said.
The Kentucky senator, 81, was at a Wednesday evening dinner for the Senate Leadership Fund, a campaign committee aligned with him, when he tripped and fell. The dinner was at the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC, formerly the Trump International Hotel.
Spokesman David Popp said McConnell is being treated for a concussion and “is grateful to the medical professionals for their care and to his colleagues for their warm wishes.” McConnell’s office did not provide additional detail on his condition or how long he may be absent from the Senate.
Returning from a trip to Philadelphia Thursday evening, President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that he’d spoken with McConnell’s family.
“I think he’s gonna be all right,” Biden said of his former Senate colleague.
Concussions can be serious injuries and take time for recovery. Even a single incident of concussion can limit a person’s abilities as they recover.
In 2019, McConnell tripped and fell at his home in Kentucky, suffering a shoulder fracture that required surgery. The Senate had just started a summer recess, and he worked from home for some weeks as he recovered.
First elected in 1984, McConnell in January became the longest-serving Senate leader when the new Congress convened, breaking the previous record of 16 years.
The taciturn McConnell is often reluctant to discuss his private life. But at the start of the COVID-19 crisis he opened up about his early childhood experience fighting polio. He described how his mother insisted that he stay off his feet as a toddler and worked with him through a determined physical therapy regime. He has acknowledged some difficulty in adulthood climbing stairs.
Senators leaving a Republican conference lunch on Thursday said that that McConnell’s staff had given them an update on his condition. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said they were told that “he’s doing well, feels fine, but had a concussion.”
Romney predicted that McConnell would stay in the hospital over the weekend and return to the Senate next week.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, said he was at the dinner Wednesday evening and that McConnell had delivered remarks “as usual.”
“Evidently it happened later in the evening,” said Thune, who had moved on to another reception underway at the hotel and did not see McConnell fall.
None of the senators had talked to McConnell, though several said they had reached out to wish him well. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said he had sent a note but that it was his understanding that McConnell was not taking calls.
“We just need to make sure that the leader does what he’s told,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday morning that he had called McConnell but spoke with his staff “to extend my prayers and well wishes.”
The Senate, where the average age is 65, has been without several members recently due to illness.
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., 53, who suffered a stroke during his campaign last year, was expected to remain out for some weeks as he received care for clinical depression. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., 89, said last week that she had been hospitalized to be treated for shingles.
The Democratic absences have proven a challenge for Schumer, who is already navigating a narrow 51-49 majority.
The Republicans, as the minority party, have had an easier time with intermittent absences.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is 89, not 90.