GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol

GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRhode Island state treasurer running for Langevin's seat in US House McConnell aims to sidestep GOP drama over Trump House Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill MORE (R-Calif.) said he is looking at options for Republicans to bring rapid testing to the Capitol that would be offered to members in both parties along with staff and reporters. 

House Republicans have amplified their calls for testing at the Capitol after Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertFocus on Perry could mean more subpoenas, challenges for Jan. 6 panel Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 House Ethics panel dismisses security screening fine issued to GOP lawmaker MORE (R-Texas) became the ninth member of Congress to test positive for the virus this week. 

Gohmert had repeatedly been seen not wearing a mask at the Capitol, even as many other lawmakers in both parties along with others working at the Capitol did so. 

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“I'm actually looking at space that we have to actually bring people in and set up our own testing and we'll offer it to Democrats as well as the Republicans,” McCarthy told The Hill on Friday, adding that it would also be extended to staff and the press. 

“Yeah [it would be available to staff and reporters], because everybody is interacting — we believe in the public health for the entire building. It's the smart thing to do.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better Let's 'reimagine' political corruption Briahna Joy Gray discusses Pelosi's 2022 re-election announcement MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Actor John Krasinski films outside White House Biden's Supreme Court choice: A political promise, but also a matter of justice Let's 'reimagine' political corruption MORE (R-Ky.) previously declined an offer from the Trump administration to offer testing at the Capitol in May, citing the nationwide testing shortage. 

Pelosi told reporters on Friday that the decision to bring testing to the Capitol is up to the Capitol physician, not her. 

"It's not a decision of mine, it's a decision of the Capitol physician, as to the need for testing," she said.

She said there are about 20,000 people going in and out of the Capitol, and that it would be important for all of those people to have access to testing.

"You think of members of Congress, Oh there are 535. No, there are about 20,000 people who make the Capitol run. And the Capitol physician has not said yet that he thinks that we should be tested. But it's not just us. It's not just us, it's others as well,” she said. 

She said she does not think "it's a good idea for members of the Congress to say, 'We should have it, but maybe not necessarily the people who work here at the expense of others.' "

"It comes back to equipment. We would probably have to do thousands of people, some would say every day, some would say every week. It's not up to Sen. McConnell or me. As far as I'm concerned it's up to the Capitol physician," she concluded.

McCarthy wrote a letter to Pelosi on Thursday calling for the House to implement the GOP plan unveiled in early May aimed at helping the lower chamber conduct in-person work during the pandemic. The proposal calls for rapid testing in addition to minimal staff in-person and conducting committee hearings in larger rooms to allow for social distancing. 

“I am writing to request that you immediately implement the Republican plan for a safe, clear, and effective reopening that we requested exactly 100 days ago. Included in our plan was the acceptance of the Administration’s offer to provide rapid testing in Congress for COVID-19,” the letter says. 

"As I wrote at the time, more testing was both necessary and feasible: ‘our ongoing and iterative testing regime should be scaled as test availability increases nationwide. This plan should progress to incorporate asymptomatic randomized testing, and eventually, FDA authorized rapid antigen tests.’ The need for testing throughout Capitol Hill campus remains immediate.”