Rand Paul became the first U.S. senator to test positive for the coronavirus, his office announced on Sunday. Two other members of Congress, Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and Representative Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat have also tested positive and are in self-quarantine.
The Kentucky Republican has no symptoms but “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,” read a statement from Paul’s Twitter account.
“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,” his office said. “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.”
The statement added that the senator’s D.C. office began operating remotely ten days ago, so “virtually no staff” has had contact with the senator, which could put them in danger of infection.
Paul may have spared his staff from exposure, but not his senate colleagues.
Can confirm that Sen. @JerryMoran briefly saw Sen. Rand Paul at the Senate gym this morning and that he shared this information with his colleagues during today’s policy meeting. This morning, Sen. Moran followed CDC guidelines and kept a safe distance between him and Sen. Paul.
— Tom Brandt (@tomwbrandt) March 22, 2020
Paul was the only senator to vote against the $8 billion coronavirus virus aid package last week, believing the money in the bill wasn’t offset by cuts in spending elsewhere. He held the bill up for a few hours by requiring a vote on an amendment that was doomed from the start.
But what does the Senate do now? How many members were close to Paul in the last few days?
Paul’s diagnosis has triggered a discussion about whether senators, many of whom are in older age brackets, should go home immediately or self-quarantine, given their likely contact with Paul, who Paul was on the Senate floor extensively over the last week.
That’s created fresh uncertainty about how Congress can finish and pass emergency coronavirus legislation, on which Democrats and Republicans are still struggling to reach a deal.
Indeed, that’s one less Republican vote for Mitch McConnell. With Democrats beginning to dig in on several issues associated with the stimulus bill, McConnell may need every Republican vote if the bill turns into a partisan issue.
But I don’t think even Democrats are so stupid as to insist on advancing their social agenda using stimulus legislation as a vehicle.