House

Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert

Greg Nash

At least two lawmakers said Wednesday that they will self-quarantine after recently being around Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) said her decision to self-quarantine came after she sat next to Gohmert on a flight from their home state over the weekend.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, also said he will self-quarantine after chairing a hearing that Gohmert attended on Tuesday.

Gohmert tested positive for coronavirus while he was being screened at the White House ahead of a planned trip to Texas with President Trump on Wednesday.

The Texas Republican had attended multiple hearings on Capitol Hill the previous day, including the Natural Resources Committee hearing about the Park Police’s handling of protesters at Lafayette Square last month and a Judiciary hearing with Attorney General William Barr.

Gohmert did not wear a mask while outside the Judiciary hearing room, including while he was near Barr. He also initially did not have a facial covering on inside the hearing room.

Grijalva said in a statement that he will self-quarantine until he gets tested and receives the results.

“In the meantime, my work schedule and the lives of my employees are disrupted. This stems from a selfish act by Mr. Gohmert, who is just one member of Congress,” Grijalva said.

A spokesperson for Granger said she was “seated next to Representative Gohmert on a flight from Texas Sunday evening. At the direction of the Attending Physician, and out of an abundance of caution, she is self-quarantining.”

Granger serves as the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. Her self-quarantine will come just as the House is slated to take up a government spending package for the next fiscal year, meaning another member of the committee will have to take her place leading floor debate for the Republicans.

The Granger spokesperson said that Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Appropriations panel, is likely to fill in for her.

Fellow lawmakers aren’t the only ones rushing to get tested or self-quarantine as a consequence of Gohmert’s actions.

A spokesperson for Barr said earlier Wednesday that the attorney general will be tested for COVID-19 after being near Gohmert.

And at least one member of the Capitol press corps, a reporter for Bloomberg News, also got tested on Wednesday after an encounter with Gohmert.

After testing positive, Gohmert returned to his office on Capitol Hill to conduct a remote interview with Texas television affiliate KETK, during which he suggested that his mask may have been to blame for the infection.

The Texas lawmaker said he “can’t help but wonder if my keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, that if I might have put some germs or some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in — I don’t know.”

Public health experts say that masks are an effective way for people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms to avoid spreading it to others.

Eight other members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19: Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). 

House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) also had a “presumed” case of COVID-19, but was not officially tested.

House Democrats last month began requiring masks for lawmakers while they attend committee hearings, but the policy has repeatedly encountered resistance from some GOP lawmakers. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) admonished GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Mike Johnson (La.) for not wearing masks during the hearing with Barr. Like Gohmert, Jordan was also seen walking around outside the hearing room on Tuesday without a mask.

Updated: 4:45 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Jerry Nadler Jim Jordan Joe Cunningham Kay Granger Louie Gohmert Mario Diaz-Balart Mike Johnson Mike Kelly Morgan Griffith Neal Dunn Nydia Velazquez Rand Paul Texas Tom Cole Tom Rice William Barr
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