Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell has sparked health concerns after he appeared to physically seize up at a press conference.
Senator McConnell, 81, froze mid-sentence and stood motionless at a podium in Congress for about 20 seconds before aides and fellow senators helped him walk away.
The Senate minority leader was making opening remarks about the bipartisan co-operation on a defence funding bill when he froze.
It took a moment for his colleagues to step in and steady the veteran politician – who is the longest-serving Senate party leader in US history – and ask if he was okay.
One of his top deputies, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who is also a physician, could be heard asking McConnell if he had anything more to say to the press or if he wanted to “go back to your office”.
He repeats the question, before helping Mr McConnell walk away from the press conference.
The veteran Kentucky politician returned several minutes later and told reporters he was “fine” before taking questions on a number of issues.
An aide later added that the Senator “felt light headed and stepped away for a moment” before coming back for a “sharp” Q&A, NBC news reports.
According to NBC, Mr McConnell told reporters later that evening that President Joe Biden had “called to check on me”.
“I told him I got sandbagged,” he reportedly joked.
A White House official and spokesperson for the senator confirmed that Mr Biden and Mr McConnell spoke on the phone on Wednesday.
There were concerns the freeze was related to a concussion Mr McConnell sustained in March, after he tripped and fell at a private dinner for the Senate Leadership Fund.
He was hospitalised with a concussion and minor rib fracture and was discharged on March 13 before spending six weeks away from the Senate to undergo physical therapy. He returned to the Senate in April.
Mr McConnell has served in the Senate since 1985. He has held the top job for the Republicans in the Senate since 2007 and wielded unflinching power as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021.
He most notably helped engineer conservatives taking a majority on the Supreme Court by stalling a hearing for Obama’s progressive appointed nominee in 2016.
He also ensured that Trump was not convicted at trial after his unprecedented two impeachments, though he was critical of Trump’s behaviour.
This latest incident highlighted the challenge posed by ageing leadership in the US Congress.
There are three other senators who are older than Mr McConnell, including Republican Chuck Grassley, 89, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who is 90. More than 20 other senators are 70 or older.
Age is also a central issue in the incoming 2024 presidential race: incumbent Joe Biden is 80, while Republican frontrunner Donals Trump is 77.
Biden, the oldest person to ever occupy the Oval Office, tripped and fell during a graduation ceremony at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado last month, but got up quickly and walked back to his seat.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 61 per cent of Americans said they were very or somewhat concerned that members of Congress were too old to represent the American people.