In response to a medical emergency, the common response in television and movies involves some variation of: “Is there a doctor in the house?”
Fortunately for one Republican lawmaker, there was a doctor in the Senate on Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) was hosting a luncheon on Capitol Hill when she reportedly began to choke. Without missing a beat, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is also a doctor, jumped in to administer the Heimlich maneuver and dislodge the blockage.
According to another Senate Republican, both Paul and Ernst addressed the incident in subsequent remarks to attendees of the lunch event. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) said that they participated in an ad hoc discussion regarding how to identify the signs that someone is choking as well as how to obtain the proper training necessary to provide potentially life-saving assistance.
Senators alternate hosting duties for the regular Senate luncheons, and Ernst reportedly served pork chops and ribeye steaks to highlight popular entrees from her home state. One of her aides indicated that she fully recovered.
The Iowa Republican appeared to reference the frightening episode in a social media post, thanking Paul and including a good-natured jab at her colleagues across the aisle.
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) November 30, 2023
Even some of Paul’s more outspoken critics, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), praised his quick action.
Though he was not at the event at the time, the South Carolina Republican later said: “God bless Rand Paul. I never thought I’d say that.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also weighed in, though he noted that he did not personally witness the incident.
“We’ve had that happen one other time to one of our members,” he said. “It’s kind of scary.”
Then-Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) began choking at a Senate luncheon in 2018 and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) performed the Heimlich maneuver on her, breaking one of her ribs in the process.
In a social media post of his own, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a frequent Paul ally, called the Kentucky Republican a “hero” and cited two influential economists in touting the senator’s capabilities.
“Not all senators can quote [Ludwig von] Mises and [Friedrich von] Hayek — while saving lives,” Lee wrote.