Paul's expected return soothes heartburn for McConnell

Attorney: Rand Paul attack was not political
Attorney: Rand Paul attack was not political

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    Attorney: Rand Paul attack was not political

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Attorney: Rand Paul attack was not political 02:33

Story highlights

  • Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate
  • That means GOP leaders can only afford to lose a few votes

(CNN)After Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul suffered a painful rib injury when he was allegedly assaulted by a neighbor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked what a potentially prolonged Paul absence could mean for the GOP agenda.

Heartburn, McConnell replied.
    "Every day is a Maalox moment anyway," McConnell, who like Paul is also from Kentucky, told reporters in Louisville Monday. "Any time we have a senator on our side who's not there it, it's potentially a challenge. I got a 52-to-48 majority and um, as you saw on several occasions, we're not always totally in lockstep."
    While many of the gory details of what exactly prompted Paul's neighbor, Dr. Rene Boucher, to allegedly assault the Republican senator -- and exactly how five of his ribs were broken -- are unknown, authorities and Boucher's lawyer say it was prompted by a trivial, long simmering, and now very public and embarrassing dispute over yard waste.
    For now, it doesn't appear Republicans will lose any roll call votes because of Paul's convalescence at his home in a gated community in Bowling Green.
    The Senate this week is voting to break Democratic filibusters and confirm four of President Donald Trump's executive branch nominees and only 51 votes are needed to do that. All the other GOP senators are here to see that through.
    Paul's absence did require two votes scheduled for Monday evening to be postponed until Tuesday because Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was dealing with aftermath of the church shooting in Texas, was also away.
    But votes on tax reform, government funding, perhaps immigration and other controversial legislation is expected in the next few weeks. With several veteran GOP senators dealing with illnesses -- including John McCain of Arizona, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Johnny Isakson of Georgia -- every vote is critical for GOP leaders.
    That helps explain why McConnell looked relieved Tuesday when he announced to reporters he had spoken to Paul and expects him "back in the saddle" next week.
    "It was quite an experience. He was literally, as you've read, or may have reported, slammed into by a neighbor," McConnell said. "And he has five either broken or cracked ribs. And said it really hurt and but he's on mend. We expect him back next week, and back in the saddle."
    McConnell had reason to believe Paul might be out for an extended period, based on an ominous statement Sunday from Doug Stafford, an aide to Paul.
    "Displaced rib fractures can lead to life-threatening injuries such as: hemopneumothorax, pneumothorax, pneumonia, internal bleeding, laceration of internal organs and lung contusions," Stafford said.
    The biggest upcoming legislative item is tax reform. The first key floor vote is expected the week after Thanksgiving. While Paul, who is concerned about the bill's impact on the deficit, has yet to say he will for the bill, he has gotten outsized attention from the President on the issue in hopes of getting him to "yes."
    Several other GOP senators are considered wavering on the issue so every vote is expected to count for McConnell and other Republican leaders.
    That maybe why Majority Whip John Cornyn, who oversees corralling votes, sent Paul a text message Monday to check in on him.
    "I sent him a text, boy!" Cornyn exclaimed. "It seems like he's pretty sore. We wish him and a speedy recovery."