Trump coronavirus diagnosis leaves lawmakers exposed

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Moreover, Barrett has met with roughly two dozen senators since being introduced by Trump last weekend. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone have attended these meetings; neither they nor Barrett have tested positive at this time.

But given the number of meetings top Senate and House members have at the White House with his president and his staff, the diagnosis of the president and his aides at a minimum highlights the risk to a Capitol filled with lawmakers in their 70s and 80s particularly susceptible to the deadly pandemic’s effects.

Trump’s diagnosis will almost certainly revive the debate over coronavirus testing on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, the White House offered to provide rapid testing for members of Congress, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to accept, citing that tests should be prioritized for frontline workers.

The move drew some push back from top Republicans. “The speaker and the leader should look at this not from the point of view of special privilege for members, but a protection for all the people this unique set of travelers comes in contact with just to get to work and back,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, in May.

Since the start of the outbreak, most senators have worn masks and taken extra precautions to try to prevent the spread of the disease. Republicans have their daily lunches in a large room, while Democrats regularly communicate almost entirely by phone.

But members of Congress have still been exposed to the virus. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have both tested positive for the virus, and Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

And several, including Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have gone into quarantine after coming into contact with individuals who tested positive.

While lawmakers are still keeping on skeleton staffs in the Capitol during the pandemic, there’s evidence of some fatigue. On Thursday, a sizable minority of staffers walked around the Russell Senate Office Building without masks, for example.

And though members of the media have sought to reduce their footprint in the Capitol, the Supreme Court nomination has noticeably increased the number of reporters interacting with senators and their staffs.

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