Mitch McConnell fractures shoulder amid Democratic calls to reconvene Senate to vote on gun control

Calls to cancel the Senate's August recess come after two mass shootings left at least 29 dead and 53 injured

By Shira Tarlo
Published August 5, 2019 10:50AM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suffered a fractured shoulder from a fall outside his home in Louisville on Sunday, his office said in a statement.

"This morning, Leader McConnell tripped at home on his outside patio and suffered a fractured shoulder," McConnell spokesman David Popp announced after the incident. "He has been treated, released and is working from home in Louisville."

Popp said the lawmaker plans to continue to work from home for now, where he has been in touch with Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Rob Portman of Ohio, whose states were impacted by mass shootings over the weekend.

"This afternoon, he contacted Senators Cornyn and Portman to express his deepest sympathies for the people of El Paso and Dayton and discuss the senseless tragedies of this weekend," Popp said on Sunday.

The first of the two shootings occurred Saturday afternoon when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, leaving 20 people dead and 26 injured. Less than 13 hours later, another shooter attacked a crowd outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, killing 9 people and injuring 27.

Cornyn traveled to El Paso on Sunday and pledged to work with the city's government. "We stand with all El Pasoans in the face of this senseless violence," he said.

Portman offered prayers for the victims, saying in a statement Sunday morning that he was "talking to local leaders and law enforcement officials." "These senseless acts of violence must stop," he added.

The statement from McConnell's office did not mention where the lawmaker received help or the expected time needed for recovery. It came on the same day as several key Democrats called on the majority leader to reconvene the Senate in order to pass gun control legislation after the two shootings over the weekend left 29 dead and 53 injured within the span of 13 hours.

Among them was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who urged McConnell  to "call the Senate back for an emergency session." The top Senate Democrat said his colleagues must "debate and vote" on a universal background check bill that passed the House of Representatives in February.

McConnell tweeted Saturday that he was "horrified" by the "senseless violence."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., retweeted that message on Sunday as she called out the Kentucky Republican for merely offering "my prayers." Ocasio-Cortez accused McConnell of "sitting on" the background check bill "since February giving bogus excuses."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is vying to take on Trump in 2020, also urged McConnell to "bring the Senate back into session" for the vote. "That's a first step to addressing our serious gun violence epidemic," he said.

Another presidential hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also urged the majority leader to reconvene the Senate: "We must treat this like the public health crisis that it is," while Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told CNN: "I hope that Sen. McConnell would bring the Senate back tomorrow and pass the background check bill and send it to the president. The president must sign it. Period."

McConnell, who is running for a seventh term in the upper chamber next year and has aligned himself closely with Trump, returned to Kentucky on Friday after the Senate departed for a five-week recess Thursday, praising the chamber for a hard-won budget and debt deal that staved off a possible government shutdown.

He has recently come under scrutiny for blocking the consideration of an election security bill aimed at protecting the nation's political system against foreign attacks.

The majority leader spent Saturday in Fancy Farm, a small town in southwest Kentucky that hosts an annual political rally in which speakers from both parties address a spirited crowd.

McConnell attended the Bluegrass State's signature political event, where some Democrats wore "Moscow Mitch" T-shirts adorned with the communist-era hammer and sickle symbols and others taunted him during the stump-style speaking at the Fancy Farm picnic.

The senator fired back at his critics and likened the attacks to "modern-day McCarthyism" during a Republican breakfast on Saturday,  where he received a long standing ovation.

"It's appropriate to see a bunch of Democrats running around with communist flags on their shirts," the senator told reporters at the breakfast. "That ought to tell you something about where they want to take the country with the 'Green New Deal' and Medicare for All. Their whole agenda would fundamentally change the country with something it's never been."

"They want to turn America into a socialist country," he said Sunday at the parish picnic, as his GOP supporters cheered and Democrats booed. "Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are never going to let that happen. That's why I call myself the 'Grim Reaper.' I'm killing their socialist agenda."

Shira Tarlo

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