Why did Mitch McConnell freeze? WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly stopped speaking during a weekly Republican leadership news conference Wednesday afternoon, appearing to freeze, and then went silent and walked away. McConnell, R-Ky., had been making his opening remarks about an annual defense policy bill when he stopped talking. He was silent for 19 seconds. His Republican colleagues asked whether he was OK, and a top McConnell deputy, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a physician, escorted McConnell, 81, away from the cameras and reporters. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa made a hand gesture that initially appeared to resemble the sign of the cross. Her office later clarified that she was motioning for Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota. McConnell’s freeze-up comes after he tripped and fell at the Washington, D.C., airport earlier this month, McConnell was not seriously injured in the incident.