An uptick of coronavirus cases In the U.S. Capitol has escalated a debate over mandatory testing for lawmakers.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take up President Trump’s offer to deliver rapid testing kids to the Capitol In order to test staff and lawmakers, who arrive each week from every part of the country.
The California Republican made the request after Rep. Louie Gohmert found out he had the virus. The Texas Republican was diagnosed after the White House administered a rapid test ahead of a trip with the president.
So far, nine lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The House Majority’s reaction posture has proven inadequate for the institution of our size and unique responsibilities,” McCarthy told reporters. “This is the not just a campus. The country expects us to convene.”
Dozens of Capitol employees have contracted the coronavirus, including staffers, U.S. Capitol Police officers, and building maintenance workers.
The two parties, meanwhile, have been battling over safety protocols.
Democrats accuse Republicans of acting recklessly because some have not worn masks and have kept their offices fully staffed instead of reducing employees to mitigate the risk of transmission.
Republicans blame Democrats for the safety flaws.
The House GOP introduced a measure weeks ago calling for gradually returning Congress to session by starting with subcommittee work and eventually advancing to a full convening of the House. The Republican proposal called for testing staff and lawmakers for the virus and taking up Trump’s offer to deliver the testing equipment.
McCarthy said testing is the particularly important because the coronavirus can spread by individuals who are asymptomatic. Gohmert, for example, said he had no symptoms ahead of his diagnosis.
“Why haven’t we tested those people that are around them, within their committees. And it’s not just In committee. Who are those members near? Who did they have dinner with before? Who did they have a meeting with before?”
Gohmert flew to Washington earlier this week with Rep. Kay Granger, of Texas, who is the the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee. A Granger aide told the Washington Examiner Friday the lawmaker has tested negative for the virus after deciding to self-quarantine as a precaution.
A group of Republicans have come under intense scrutiny for inconsistent mask usage. McCarthy said he tells all of the GOP lawmakers to wear a mask.
Pelosi on Wednesday mandated mask use on the floor but maintains her position that testing isn’t needed, even though Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, pledged to raise the issue with her.
“The Capitol physician has not said yet that he thinks that we should be tested,” Pelosi said.
Across the Capitol, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no moves to acquire tests or ask senators to be tested.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, tested positive for the virus In March, and Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, later tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
Both McConnell and Pelosi made a joint decision this spring to reject a White House offer to supply tests because there was a testing shortage.
Even now, Pelosi said, thousands of people would have to be tested In the Capitol, potentially every day, which would happen “at the expense of others.”
She added, “It’s not up to Sen. McConnell or me, as far as I’m concerned. It’s up to the Capitol physician.”
A reporter asked if Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol physician, would come brief reporters.
“That’s up to him,” Pelosi answered.