Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin wants the Senate to act on his proposal to allow remote voting after Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus – and was revealed to have mingled with colleagues before getting the results.
‘We should not be physically present on this floor at this moment,’ said Durbin, the Number Two Democrat in the Senate.
He invoked Paul, although not by name, hours after he revealed his diagnosis to the public as well as those who lunched and interacted with him.
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois is pushing a resolution to change Senate rules to allow for remote voting. He said staff is ‘subjected to whatever we bring on the floor in terms of viral load.
‘Five of our members did not vote yesterday on your side of the aisle. One has been diagnosed as having COVID-19. And the other four have self-quarantined because of concern about their own health,’ said Durbin.
‘It is naive for us to believe that that is the end of this challenge to our membership,’ he added.
Durbin and Republican Sen. Rob Portman have introduced a resolution that would change Senate rules to allow for remote voting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been cool to the idea. ‘We’ll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together,’ he said days ago, before his home-state colleague got his positive test result.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. On Sunday his office announced he tested positive for the coronavirus
Durbin pleaded with his colleagues, standing in a chamber steeped in tradition.
‘I implore you to consider the bipartisan measure that senator Portman and I have offered for remote voting,’ he said,
‘We know better, and our staff is subjected to whatever we bring on the floor in terms of viral load. Let’s think about this in human terms. Too many of our colleagues and their families are falling prey to this disease. We should change the rules of the senate to reflect humanity and reality,’ he said.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced Monday that her husband, John Bessler, had tested positive for the virus.
Lawmakers were preparing for further spread, in a chamber with many members of advanced age.
‘My husband has coronavirus. I love him & not being able to be by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,’ Klobuchar tweeted. ‘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,’ she added.
Paul pushed back at critics Monday in a statement that confirmed he asked to get tested despite not meeting the normal protocol.
‘For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,’ he said. ‘The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined. It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested,’ he said.
Paul’s office announced he had tested positive Sunday afternoon.
‘He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,’ a tweet from his official Twitter account revealed. ‘He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.
MEET THE PRESS — Pictured: (l-r) Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) left, and and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) right, appear on ‘Meet the Press’ in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. They are proposing to change Senate rules to allow for remote voting
Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for coronavirus. He is pictured above Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on a second COVID-19 funding bill already passed by the House
‘He expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time,’ it continued.
It soon became clear that Paul had lunched with a colleague, GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who went into self-quarantine, as did Sen. Mitt Romney, leaving the state without Senate representation.
Romney’s office said he ‘sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days’ and went into quarantine following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Paul reportedly used the Senate gym, including its pool, Sunday morning before his office announced his test results.
The string of tweets from Paul’s suggested it was unlikely that anyone else in the office had contracted coronavirus from Paul considering ‘Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely.’
‘Virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul,’ his office said.
Here Paul is seen sitting close with Florida Republican Marco Rubio during a GOP Senate luncheon on Friday
Here Paul is pictured entering opening the door to the room where the luncheon is held
The 57-year-old licensed physician is the first U.S. senator to test positive for coronavirus, but the third member of Congress to reveal he tested positive for the respiratory disease.
Paul had held up and voted against a House bill providing $18 billion in funds to respond to the coronavirus.
The libertarian was the only senator to cast a ‘no’ vote last week on it. Now that he is sidelined, he is unable to vote on a much larger bailout and response package being negotiated Monday.
Two House members, Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Ben McAdams of Utah, revealed this week that they have also tested positive.
He was also one of the just eight senators who voted against the phase two bill, which allocated $100 billion for economic stimulus as a result from fallout due to the coronavirus outbreak.
‘Rand Paul has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Wish him the very best. He’s compromised given health conditions he’s had in the past. And so we’ll be praying for him and thinking about it,’ Romney told reporters at the Capitol Sunday, referencing Rand’s previous medical issues following getting jumped by a neighbor in 2017.
The assailant broke five of Paul’s ribs and in August 2019, the senator had to have part of his lung removed as a result of the injuries he sustained during the attack.
‘And, of course, all the senators are going to seek medical advice as to what action we should take to make sure that we don’t, in any way, spread this virus, ourselves,’ he continued.
When asked about the GOP lunch, Romney confirmed Paul attended and suggested he came in close contact with many of the senators
‘Yes, yes, we were in lunch together with Rand,’ Romney said. ‘Hope he’s doing very well, but we have to determine whether any of us should self-quarantine as a result of being in the same room.’
A CNN reporter also confirmed Paul was seen during the GOP luncheon Friday, seated directly next to other lawmakers.
‘I took a picture inside the Senate GOP lunch when the door was open Friday and saw Rand Paul seated next to other senators,’ CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju tweeted along with a photo.
Paul is the third member of Congress who announced they were diagnosed with the virus. Two House members, Representatives Mario Diaz Balart (left) of Florida and Ben McAdams (right)of Utah, revealed this week that they have also tested positive
Paul’s announcement comes as senators are on the Hill in the midst of negotiating the coronavirus economic stimulus bill.