Sen Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, has become the first United States senator to have tested positive for the coronavirus. CNN reports that Paul likely was exposed during a fundraiser in his home state.
“Paul attended a major black-tie social event in Louisville, Kentucky, two weeks ago where several attendees have subsequently tested positive, including the wife of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told fellow senators Sunday in a lunch that Paul got tested because he had been at that event, several Republican sources told CNN. Upon learning the news, Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney both announced they’d be self-quarantining.”
Paul’s fellow senators were not pleased that he did not go into quarantine earlier. He had used the senate gym and had sat close to several other senators during lunches before announcing that he had tested positive.
Senator Paul, for his part, has announced that he is not feeling any symptoms because of the coronavirus thus far. Nevertheless, he had been severely injured in 2017 during a savage attack by a neighbor. The attack had caused some broken ribs and a bruised lung. Paul had part of a lung removed last year as a result of his injuries.
With Paul, Lee, and Romney out of action, five senators, all Republicans, are unable to attend regular meetings of the senator. That means that the GOP senate majority has been reduced to 48 to 47 Democrats. The situation has complicated efforts to pass a massive financial bailout that is designed to help businesses and individuals that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Thus far, Democrats have blocked such efforts until certain of their demands have been met. The effects on the financial markets and the economy of the United States has been nothing short of devastating.
With five senators in quarantine calls grow for remote voting to be authorized, according to Fox News. Sen Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii tweeted support for the procedural change.
“The responsibility of the Senate is to remain operational. You are not protecting an institution by rendering it unable to function. Remote voting must be instituted immediately so that the federal legislature can do its job, not just today, but for the duration of this crisis.”
Schatz went on the warn that if things continue at their current pace, the Senate will lack a quorum, meaning that it could not meet to perform regular business. “The Senate still has to do its job, but there’s simply no reason we have to do it in a bunch of gilded rooms and infect each other, endangering our ability to pass legislation.”
Sen Dick Durbin, D-Illinois and Sen Rob Portman, D-Ohio have already offered legislation to allow for remote voting by senators during emergencies. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House. The idea is that Congress would be able to adhere to the Centers for Disease Controls mandates to avoid large gatherings of people but also conduct regular business.
“The resolution introduced by Portman and Durbin would allow the Senate majority leader and the minority leader – currently Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – to agree to allow secure remote voting in an emergency. The Senate then would be able to vote every 30 days to continue to allow remote voting.”
Traditionally, voting from remote locations has never been allowed in the United States Congress, even when modern internet technology would make such an arrangement easy. Senators and congressmen have been required to be present in their respective chambers to vote ever since the presidency of George Washington.
The rule had recently impacted the 2020 presidential election when senators and House members who were running for president were obliged to stop campaigning in person and attend sessions where the impeachment of President Trump had been considered.
The theory that has caused remote voting to be seriously considered is that never before in the history of the United States has a pandemic existed that was so contagious. Many members of Congress are elderly, past 60 or even past 70 and thus prone to the serious complications that the coronavirus can cause to the aged and infirm.
President Donald Trump and the presumed Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, have already been obliged to stop traditional campaigning with mass rallies. Much of the government, even NASA, is being obliged to work from home. Now it looks like the legislative branch may change the way it operates, thanks to a once in a century pandemic.