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McConnell: Paul's Absence Another Possible Challenge For GOP

Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.

Sen. Rand Paul's absence from the Senate while recovering from an assault in Kentucky creates another challenge for a slim Republican majority that's caused heartburn for its lack of unity at times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday.

McConnell wished his fellow Kentuckian a speedy recovery from the attackFriday that left Paul with five broken ribs.Paul, a former GOP presidential candidate, told police that a neighbor came on his property and tackled him from behind on Friday, an arrest warrant said.

"We're thinking about him and hoping he'll recover quickly and be able to come back to the Senate very soon," McConnell told reporters in Kentucky.

Rene Boucher, 59, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault with a minor injury. Boucher lives next door to Paul and his wife in Bowling Green, Kentucky, according to Warren County property records.

Kentucky State Police say the FBI is investigating to see if the attack was politically motivated, which Boucher's attorney disputed. Matt Baker, Boucher's attorney, told WBKO the attack was not planned.

"I've seen a couple of media spots that would tend to suggest that it was politically motivated. That is absolutely and unequivocally untrue," Baker said. "It's just a very, very hugely regrettable incident that would not happen again in a million years."

Baker has not returned a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Boucher was released from jail Saturday on a $7,500 bond. He has a court date scheduled for Thursday. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

It's also unclear when Paul will return to work. Senior Adviser Doug Stafford said the senator is in considerable pain and has difficulty getting around, including flying. Stafford said this type of injury is marked by severe pain that can last for weeks to months.

Paul's absence could complicate things even more for the sometimes-fractious Republican Senate majority. McConnell said the GOP "need all hands on deck, all the time."

"Every day's a Maalox moment," McConnell joked, before turning serious about the ramifications of having a Republican member away from the Senate for a prolonged time.

"I've got a 52 to 48 majority, and as you saw on several occasions, we're not always totally in lockstep," he said. "Anytime we have a senator on our side who's not there, it's potentially a challenge."

Asked if he might have to delay some votes, McConnell said: "I haven't had a chance to check with him (Paul) yet today about it."

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