Coronavirus and Congress
August 1, 2020

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Saturday announced he is the latest member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19. The 72-year-old congressman, who said he currently has no symptoms and feels fine, had been isolating after coming into contact with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week.

Grijalva did not call Gohmert out by name, but said that this week has revealed the consequences of the actions of Republican lawmakers who have gone to work at the Capitol without wearing a mask and taking the virus seriously, something which Gohmert has been accused of throughout the pandemic.

Three lawmakers, including Grijalva, were self-isolating after exposure to Gohmert. One of the others, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) has since tested negative for the virus. Tim O'Donnell

April 23, 2020

The House is expected to clear a $484 billion coronavirus relief package to replenish a small-business loan programs Thursday, sending it to President Trump's desk. Democrats won $100 billion for hospitals and national coronavirus testing in the legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Democratic push to include $150 billion for states and local governments. The White House said those funds would be included in the next rescue bill, but McConnell pushed the "pause button" on more aid packages Tuesday, telling The Wall Street Journal he's now worried about the national debt.

McConnell told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that governors "would love to have free money" but he would prefer hard-hit states be allowed "to use the bankruptcy route." States can't legally declare bankruptcy. In a press release, McConnell called relief funds for states "Blue State bailouts."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he's working with colleagues to provide "additional and more flexible" funding for states, adding: "The skyrocketing unemployment rate and subsequent decline in tax revenue has left local governments stretched to the limit." Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called McConnell "the Marie Antoinette of the Senate" Wednesday night, arguing it's "shameful and indefensible" to urge "devastated" states to declare bankruptcy, adding it's not "'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters, and health care workers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shrugged off McConnell's state funding comments Wednesday, telling Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. that "McConnell will do whatever the president wants," and Trump "needs this" for his re-election. "Look at the language of Mitch McConnell: 'I'm not bailing out blue states, they should go bankrupt,'" she added. "Really? Really? How insecure is he in his own race in Kentucky to have to resort to that pathetic language?" The House will take the lead on the next bill, Pelosi said, and McConnell can take it or make a better offer. Peter Weber

March 22, 2020

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Sunday tweeted that she has "never commented about a fellow senator's choices/actions," but Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) recent behavior has forced her to speak out.

On Sunday, Paul's office announced that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Not long after, CNN's Seung Min Kim reported that two people briefed on the matter told her that during the Senate Republican lunch on Sunday, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) shared with colleagues "that Rand was at the gym this morning ... and that he was swimming in the pool."

Paul's office tweeted in response that "Paul left the Senate IMMEDIATELY upon learning of his diagnosis. He had zero contact with anyone and went into quarantine." His office did not address Paul visiting the Senate gym and pool before receiving the results of his test, which is what outraged Sinema. "This, America, is absolutely irresponsible," she said. "You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results. It endangers others and likely increases the spread of the virus." Catherine Garcia

March 22, 2020

After Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced on Sunday he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Utah's two Republican senators — Mitt Romney and Mike Lee — both said they have decided to self-quarantine.

Paul is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the Senate. His office said he was asymptomatic, but was tested because he travels often and attends lots of events. Once he learned he tested positive for coronavirus, Paul went into quarantine at his home in Kentucky. His office did not say when he was tested.

Romney's office tweeted that because he sat next to Paul "for extended periods in recent days," he has been ordered by a doctor to "immediately self-quarantine and not to vote on the Senate floor. He has no symptoms but will be tested. He urges members to pass a relief package as quickly as possible that provides assistance for families, workers, and small businesses."

The Senate is now negotiating a $1.4 trillion coronavirus aid package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said there are at least five Republican senators who have self-quarantined — in addition to Paul, Lee, and Romney, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both went into isolation last week after learning they came into contact with a person who has coronavirus. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2020

Senate Republicans released their "phase three" coronavirus economic stimulus package on Thursday in a follow-up to Wednesday's package.

The Senate passed an initial package on Wednesday, which originated in the Democrat-led House and included paid sick leave, unemployment benefits, free COVID-19 testing, and other food and medical aid. But Thursday's proposal walks back some of those actions by putting stricter limits on who can use that paid leave. It also includes loans for small businesses of up to $10 million, a lift on excise taxes for airlines, and a variety of tax cuts and adjustments for businesses.

The bill promises up to $1,200 in "recovery rebates" to individual Americans who made no more than $75,000 and $2,400 to joint filers who made no more than $150,000 as of their 2018 tax return. For every $100 a person makes over those limits, $5 will be deducted from that amount. GOP negotiators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), had held firm on the $75,000 threshold as of Thursday.

Democrats will still have a chance to negotiate to modify the deal, but it'll likely have President Trump's support. By the end of Thursday, the U.S. had reported 11,200 cases of coronavirus and at least 166 deaths, ABC News reports. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 9, 2020

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), like several of his colleagues, was informed he was exposed to the novel coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February. Unlike his colleagues, Gohmert declined to self-quarantine, saying Monday that a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared him to return to Washington. So he did.

Gohmert did not say which CDC doctor called him on Sunday, but on Monday, the CDC advised Americans that "the novel coronavirus is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person," and as it spreads to throughout the country, "it's likely many will become sick but most people likely will have mild illness."

President Trump, who may also have been exposed to the virus, has not indicated any curtailing of his public engagements. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads