Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the first member of the Senate to test positive for COVID-19, his office confirmed in a Tweet on Mar 22.
“Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19. He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,” the Tweet said, with a follow up reporting that “virtually no staff has had contact” with the Senator.
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. Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
Earlier this week, two US Congressmen were diagnosed with the virus, including Florida Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Utah Representative Ben McAdams, both on Mar 18. CNN also reported that at least 29 members of Congress have self-isolated as of Mar 9.
Other members of the Senate and House are currently meeting on Capitol Hill trying to finalize legislation for a proposed $1.95 trillion dollar economic stimulus package.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senate will hold a procedural vote on the bill, now at 6:00pm ET on Mar 22, CNN reported, after he delayed the vote by three hours.
The Washington Post reports the following to be in the bill:
- $500 billion in loans and loan guarantees to businesses, states, and cities
- $350 billion for small businesses
- $100 billion for hospitals
- $250 billion to beef up state unemployment insurance programs
- $250 billion in direct assistance to Americans ($1200 per adult, $500 per child, for Americans making $75,000 or less)
- $500 billion – under a section called “Emergency Relief and Taxpayer Protections”
- $425 billion in loans and loan guarantees meant to rescue “eligible businesses, states or municipalities” as determined by the US Treasury Dept
- $50 billion for passenger airline companies
- $8 billion for cargo air firms
- $17 billion for companies deemed critical to US national security
However, House Democrats have proposed their own stimulus bill, which reportedly favors more worker protections and resists the $500 billion in discretionary funds for the Treasury Department, the Washington Post reports.
As for Senator Paul, to date, Congress does not allow remote voting, which means Senator Paul (and Reps. Diaz-Balart and McAdams) will miss the eventual vote on the stimulus bill. However, several members of congress are pushing for changes to the voting process to allow remote voting. Senators Dick Durbin and Rob Portman have introduced a bill to amend voting rules during a national crisis and provide a 30-day window for remote voting, which could be renewed if necessary, CNN reports.
However, McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi oppose changes to the voting rules.