Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most powerful figures in Washington, is being treated for a concussion and will remain in the hospital for several days after tripping and falling at a hotel, his spokesperson said on Thursday.
McConnell, who is 81 and was first elected to the Senate in 1984, “tripped at a dinner event Wednesday evening and has been admitted to the hospital and is being treated for a concussion. He is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days of observation and treatment,” spokesman David Popp said in a statement.
McConnell has been awake and talking to people and is expected to make a full recovery, said Republican Senator John Barasso, a member of McConnell’s leadership team.
McConnell’s legislative skills have torpedoed many Democratic initiatives over the years, both when his party held a majority in the chamber and when Democrats have held the edge, as they currently do.
McConnell has long been criticized by Democrats, particularly for his tactics that allowed Republicans to build a 6-3 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, including having the Senate refuse to consider a 2016 nomination to the high court by Democratic then-President Barack Obama.
He has also drawn the ire of Donald Trump, including for rejecting the Republican former president’s false claims that his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was the result of widespread voting fraud.
McConnell has also maintained his support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion last year even as some far-right Republicans have questioned U.S. aid for the Ukrainians.
With Republicans now holding a narrow 222-213 majority in the House of Representatives, McConnell has so far stayed out of the limelight in the debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, leaving talks to Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
McConnell has faced other health issues in recent years, including a broken shoulder in 2019 after falling in his Kentucky home.
Currently serving his seventh six-year term, which runs through 2026, McConnell is the third U.S. senator to be hospitalized in recent weeks. Democrat John Fetterman is being treated for depression, while Diane Feinstein, also a Democrat, was discharged to recuperate from home following a bout with shingles.
McConnell served as Senate majority leader from early 2015 to early 2021 and as Senate minority leader since 2021. Democrats, including three independents who vote with them, currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
A former judge-executive of Kentucky’s Jefferson County, McConnell has helped steer the federal judiciary sharply to the right, having the Senate speedily confirm Republican nominees.
Senate Republicans this year re-elected McConnell as their leader. Senator Rick Scott of Florida challenged McConnell for the right to lead the Republican caucus with the backing of other Trump allies including Senator Josh Hawley.
Several of McConnell’s colleagues wished him well on Thursday.
“Susan and I are keeping @LeaderMcConnell in our prayers and wish him a speedy recovery,” Republican Senator Thom Tillis posted on Twitter, referring to his wife.
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor, also offered well wishes: “I join every single one of my colleagues in wishing Leader McConnell a speedy and full recovery now.”
While his efforts to sink liberal initiatives led him to dub himself the “Grim Reaper,” McConnell’s absence in the Senate could further inflame divisions within his party. The Kentucky Republican has stood as a bulkhead against Trump’s “Make American Great Again” faction even as the former president has attacked him and his wife, Elaine Chao.
McConnell condemned the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters but ultimately voted to acquit the former president on a House-approved impeachment charge of incitement even as he held him “practically and morally responsible.”
Trump has accused McConnell of being a “RINO,” or Republican in Name Only, calling him an “old crow,” and lobbing repeated racist attacks against Chao, who served as U.S. transportation secretary under Trump but resigned after the Jan. 6 attack.
McConnell has declined to say whether he would back Trump’s 2024 re-election bid but has said he would support the ultimate Republican nominee.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham, Andy Sullivan and Paul Simao)