On Sunday, senators on Capitol Hill went into alarm-mode after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for the coronavirus. While there has been plenty of hand-wringing and social media criticism of Paul for allegedly using the gym and the Senate pool while waiting for the results of his test, we’re not sure at this point how much of that story to believe. At best, it feels like Monday morning quarterbacking of the most predictable kind. At worst, it could be fake news altogether. We’ll have to wait and see how much of it is true and how much isn’t; right now, we do know that Paul remains asymptomatic, so it’s not like he was up there coughing all over his colleagues.
Even so, Paul’s diagnosis could foreshadow a big problem on Capitol Hill. Already, two lawmakers in the House have tested positive for the coronavirus. One of them, Rep. Ben McAdams, has reportedly been hospitalized with severe symptoms. The other, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, appears to be doing okay last we heard.
Nevertheless, with the virus loose on the Hill, it could be only a matter of time before half of our lawmakers are in self-quarantine – a situation that would bring Washington grinding to a halt just as the country is looking to Congress for relief packages.
“Colleagues, as everyone now knows, the coronavirus has arrived in the Senate. There are at least five senators who are in self-quarantine at the moment,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday.
Hours after Paul’s diagnosis, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced that he would be going into self-quarantine as well.
“Since Senator Romney sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days and consistent with CDC guidance, the attending physician has ordered him to immediately self-quarantine and not to vote on the Senate floor,” Romney’s office said in a statement.
Sen. Mike Lee, the other senator from Utah, also announced that he would be going into isolation for 14 days.
Other senators already practicing self-quarantine include Rick Scott of Florida, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ted Cruz of Texas.
It would only take another couple of self-quarantines on the GOP side to force McConnell to make some very difficult decisions. Namely, to open up the Senate to remote voting, which may be the only way for Republicans to maintain a quorum.
With the Democrats playing unnecessary hardball with the stimulus bill, this isn’t exactly a great time for Republicans to lose their majority advantage. Indeed, if this thing is really loose in the building, it might be wise to suspend Senate floor operations altogether lest we have a major political/constitutional crisis on our hands.
Strange times…and they’re only getting stranger.