Senator Rand Paul used the Heimlich maneuver on fellow Republican Joni Ernst at a luncheon

US Senator Rand Paul may have saved the life of Senator Joni Ernst on Thursday, performing the Heimlich maneuver when she began choking on a piece of food at a lunch meeting in Washington.

The incident occurred at a luncheon for Republican senators hosted by Ernst and Chuck Grassley, both Iowa Republicans. Paul, a Kentucky eye surgeon who was elected to the Senate in 2010, came to the rescue after Ernst began choking.

The Heimlich involves reaching around from behind a choking person with both hands and yanking at the base of their diaphragm to dislodge the object by forcing air up through the throat.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, called Paul a hero.

“Not all heroes wear capes,” Lee said on X (formerly Twitter). “Not all senators can quote Mises and Hayek while saving lives,” he added, referencing two famous Austrian economists.

READ MORE: Iowa senator who questioned Covid-19 profiteering gets excoriated online after receiving state’s first vaccine dose

Ernst joked about the incident by taking a jab at Democrats. 

“Can’t help but choke on the woke policies Dems are forcing down our throats. Thanks Dr. Rand Paul!” she wrote on X.

The “Iowa Day” luncheon was sponsored at least partly by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. A photo posted by Grassley showed him and Ernst holding plates of food, a pork chop for him and a steak sandwich for his colleague.

Ernst, 53, retired as a lieutenant colonel in Iowa’s Army National Guard after being elected to the Senate in 2014.

Paul has been a lightning rod for controversy in the Senate with his libertarian policies, including fighting against the Covid-19 vaccine mandates, trying to block extension of the Patriot Act, and opposing funding for military aid to Ukraine.

READ MORE: US senator slams ‘ungrateful’ Ukraine

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a war hawk who has repeatedly clashed with Paul, thanked him for saving a colleague on Thursday.

“It’s a good thing he did,” Graham said. “God bless Rand Paul. I never thought I’d say that.”

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