The 81-year-old senator was attending a private dinner at a Washington hotel when he tripped.
That dinner followed a reception at the Waldorf Astoria for the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that raises unlimited donations to support GOP candidates, where McConnell spoke earlier in the evening.
Senators received a briefing on McConnell’s condition on Thursday afternoon at a private lunch, where they were told he would remain in the hospital for several more days, several senators said. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said after the briefing that he had not spoken to McConnell since the fall but that he was under the impression that he was “awake and talking.”
“I expect him to make a full recovery,” Barasso said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said they were told McConnell was in “fine spirits.”
As of early Thursday afternoon, many of McConnell’s top deputies, including Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said they had not spoken to him personally yet.
Several senators said they were not told when McConnell was expected to be back, but projected confidence about his condition. “He’s just tough as a boot,” Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said.
McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate in 1985 and is serving his seventh six-year term, became GOP leader in 2007. He has held that post longer than any other Republican and for years has been among the most powerful elected officials in Washington.
He underwent surgery in August 2019 after he fractured his shoulder tripping outside his Louisville home. The recovery kept him out of the public eye for weeks as he spent the congressional break recovering at home and undergoing physical therapy.
The senator, who overcame polio as a child, also has a history of heart issues and had triple bypass surgery in 2003, just after being promoted to the No. 2 Senate Republican post.
When pictures emerged in 2020 showing his hands bruised and bandaged, McConnell downplayed interest in his health as media hype.
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In November, McConnell was reelected Senate minority leader, overcoming the first challenge to his leadership following a disappointing performance for Republicans in the midterm elections. McConnell easily defeated Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on a 37-10 vote. The GOP infighting underscored that while McConnell has overwhelming support in his conference, he has lost key allies to retirement. As of December, the average age in the Senate was 64.
Republican hopes of capturing the Senate majority in a difficult year for President Biden and Democrats were dashed by ineffective and problematic candidates who had the backing of Donald Trump. McConnell blamed the former president, saying he “proved to be decisive” in the midterms’ outcome, highlighting the rift between the two men.
Trump is a frequent critic of McConnell, who accused the then president of provoking the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump has repeatedly mocked McConnell’s wife, former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, and has made racist remarks about her.
This week, McConnell denounced the leadership of Fox News for airing Tucker Carlson’s vision of the assault on the Capitol, holding up a letter from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger that said Carlson’s show was “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.”
“It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here in the Capitol thinks,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
Less than three months into the session, the Senate has already dealt with the absence of other lawmakers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the oldest senator at 89, was recently hospitalized for shingles and is recovering at home. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for clinical depression nearly three weeks ago; an aide recently said he “will be back soon.”
On the Senate floor Thursday morning, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had called McConnell and spoken “briefly with his staff to extend my prayers and well wishes.” He said he was praying for “strength and healing for the leader and his family.”
Leigh Ann Caldwell and Missy Khamvongsa contributed to this report.
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