WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2020 (ENS) – Senate Democrats voted down a $1.8 trillion coronavirus aid package Sunday evening with five Republican senators absent. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican and a medical doctor, announced Sunday morning he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would self-quarantine. Two Republican colleagues Senator Paul had interacted with, Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, who then also announced they would self-quarantine and miss the vote.
“Since Senator Romney sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days and consistent with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, the attending physician has ordered him to immediately self-quarantine and not to vote on the Senate floor,” Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had a far-reaching impact on the United States. Schools, churches, theaters, and fitness centers are closed. Every major sports league in the country has suspended play. The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
Senator Paul took some scathing criticism from Senate colleagues after it appeared he was still tending to his normal business, going to the gym and swimming in the pool at the U.S. Capitol after being tested for the coronavirus and while awaiting the test results. His results came back positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.
Lawmakers from both parties have self-quarantined after coming in contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. They include Republican Senators Rick Scott of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ted Cruz of Texas, who came out of a 14-day self-quarantine on March 17.
Here are all the lawmakers serving in Congress who have tested positive for the coronavirus to date:
Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida announced that he had tested positive for the virus on March 18, becoming the first congressional lawmaker to announce that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a statement from his office the Republican congressman said he developed symptoms including fever and a headache on March 14. After votes on Friday, March 13 instead of going back to his home state, Diaz-Balart self-quarantined at his apartment in Washington, DC. He tested positive for COVID-19 several days later.
“I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better, he said in the statement. “However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”
Congressman Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on March 18, shortly after Diaz-Balart’s announcement.
McAdams said he experienced “mild cold-like symptoms” upon his return to his home in Utah from Washington, DC, and got tested shortly thereafter.
McAdams said in a statement Sunday night that he has been hospitalized since Friday because of “severe shortness of breath.”
“I was admitted and have been receiving oxygen as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels. I am now off oxygen and feeling relatively better and expect to be released as soon as the doctor determines it is appropriate,” he said in a tweet.
McAdams urged Utahns “…to take this seriously and follow the health recommendations we’re getting from the CDC and other health experts so that we can recover from this public health threat.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has tweeted that her husband, John Bessler, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
“My husband has coronavirus. I love him & not being able to be by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease. So many are going through this & much worse. I pray for him & you & meanwhile I will do all I can to get help to the American people.
Klobuchar, who ended her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this month, has been in Washington for votes on a stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
On the failure of the aid package bill to attract the required 60 votes, the 47-47 vote result prompted Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, to point to the lack of “protections for workers” and said that it did not do enough to help the healthcare industry.
“The legislation has many problems,” Schumer said on the Senate floor after the vote. “At the top of the list, it included a large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight.”
“Also very troubling,” said Schumer, “the bill had significant shortfalls of money that our hospitals, states, cities and medical workers desperately needed. This is a public health crisis. It is inexplicable to skimp on funding to address the pandemic.”
Senators Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, have renewed their campaign to have the Senate adopt remote voting, something Senate Majority Leader McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has declined to establish.
Durbin said on Sunday that the prospect of five senators self-quarantining was inevitable and the numbers of lawmakers affected by the virus could grow.
“This could grow. Let’s be very honest about it, and the numbers could grow to the point it could reach an extreme where there’s a question of an actual quorum on the floor of the Senate,” Durbin warned.
On Capitol Hill most offices are closed and many congressional staffers have been sent home as public areas and businesses initiate temporary lockdowns to keep the disease from spreading.
As of Sunday evening, March 22, the District of Columbia reported 18 new positive cases, bringing the District’s overall positive case total to 116 individuals.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “We are in a critical phase of this health crisis, and we need everyone doing their part to blunt the spread of the virus. We need people following the guidance of our public health officials, staying at home, and not doing anything to put themselves or our community at risk.”
Across the country the virus is still spreading. As of noon Eastern Time on Monday, coronavirus cases across the United States totaled 33,404, with 400 deaths. Fifty-four jurisdictions are reporting cases of COVID-19 – all of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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