Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate

Republicans gathered for a closed-door caucus lunch when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE (R-Ky.) broke the news: One of their own, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed GOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response Fauci: 'We are not going in the right direction' MORE (R-Ky.), had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“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,” McConnell said, making a public announcement from the Senate floor.

The first known case of a senator contracting the disease set off a domino effect throughout the chamber as colleagues tried to recall the last time they were in close contact with Paul, who was in the Capitol complex as recently as Sunday.

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Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany MORE (R-Utah) told reporters on Sunday afternoon that senators would have to weigh whether they would need to self-quarantine. Only hours later, he announced that he would.

"Since Senator Romney sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days and consistent with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] 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 on Sunday.

He was preceded by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections Senators offer bill to expand charitable giving tax break Overnight Energy: Senate passes major lands conservation bill | Mnuchin ordered to give Native American tribes full stimulus funding | Key Republican jeopardizes Trump consumer safety nominee MORE (R-Utah), who became the first senator to announce he would self-quarantine because of Paul.

"Upon learning that my colleague Sen. Paul tested positive for COVID-19, I consulted the Attending Physician of the U.S. Congress Dr. Harding," Lee said in a statement. "Given the timing, proximity, and duration of my exposure to Sen. Paul, she directed me to self-quarantine for 14 days."  

They join a handful of their colleagues who have had to isolate after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hickenlooper beats back progressive challenge in Colorado primary MORE (R-Colo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are already self-quarantined for exposure unrelated to Paul. Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights MORE (R-S.C.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE (R-Texas) had also self-quarantined for unrelated cases but are out of isolation. With five GOP senators in quarantine, the margin in the Senate is temporarily 48 Republicans and 47 Democrats.

After McConnell’s announcement, Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranWatchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Mayor Quinton Lucas MORE (R-Kan.) made an observation to his colleagues during the lunch: that he had seen Paul in the Senate gym just that morning.

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The disclosure sparked two questions: Why was the Senate gym still operating while gyms across the country have shuttered, and why had Paul decided to come to the Capitol even though he was awaiting test results?

"I’ve never commented about a fellow Senator’s choices/actions. Never once. This, America, is absolutely irresponsible. You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results. It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus," Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) tweeted on Sunday.

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP skeptical of polling on Trump Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-N.D.) added that Paul’s decision to come to the Senate gym was “peculiar.”

“He’s a physician. He’s able to do his own risk assessment, and he evidently miscalculated,” Cramer said. “People have self-quarantined for less.”

Scott, during an interview with CNN from quarantine, added that he would “like to understand exactly where Rand was and what the risk is.”

“I think everybody ought to be talking to the Senate physician about what their risk is and whether they need to be quarantined,” he said.

Paul’s office stressed that he left the Capitol once he found out that he had tested positive.

“We want to be clear, Senator Paul left the Senate IMMEDIATELY upon learning of his diagnosis. He had zero contact with anyone & went into quarantine. Insinuations such as those below that he went to the gym after learning of his results are just completely false & irresponsible!” Paul’s office said in a tweet.

Asked when Paul got tested, and why did not self-quarantine until he got his results, Gor told The Hill that Paul "decided to get tested after attending an event where two individuals subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, even though he wasn't aware of any direct contact with either one of them."

"Additionally, due to a prior lung injury, and subsequent surgery on his lung, Senator Paul is in a higher risk category as it relates to pulmonary issues," he added.

Even as some colleagues raised eyebrows about the disclosure that Paul had tested positive, there were few signs that senators were going to take extra steps to distance themselves in the immediate wake of the news.

Senators were spotted in close clusters on the Senate floor during a 6 p.m. vote. Only one senator, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mt Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman says Biden is moving left MORE (I-Vt.), missed the vote in addition to the five senators who are quarantined.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) made a cross with his fingers as a reporter approached him in the Senate basement. Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-R.I.) extended an arm and jokingly told a reporter to “stay away.”

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Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership In the next COVID-19 bill, target innovation and entrepreneurship MORE (R-Ind.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP skeptical of polling on Trump GOP: Trump needs a new plan On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions MORE (R-Idaho), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-Wyo.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.) were standing shoulder to shoulder on their way up to the vote.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters that "we're getting advice so far from the attending physician's office that we don't need to quarantine."

Graham added that the attending physician had greenlighted the Senate GOP lunch that was held on Sunday.

“That’s good enough for me,” Graham said. “If I can go to a lunch, I can keep going to my job. And if I have any symptoms, I’ll go take a test.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (R-Texas) said he wished Paul “well” and that although he had been in the same room as Paul, he hadn’t “been in close proximity.”

Asked if it was appropriate for Paul to go to the gym, Cornyn, a member of the informal “gym caucus,” added, “I wasn’t there, so it doesn’t affect me.”

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But Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology MORE (D-Hawaii) tweeted that he was wearing a surgical mask out of an abundance of caution.

“I have no specific reason to worry any more than anyone else, but given the physical proximity to members, staff, and especially people who could be vulnerable, I decided to be as careful as possible. Stay safe all,” he said.

And Paul’s disclosure has sparked renewed discussion about the Senate’s schedule. The chamber is supposed to be in schedule through the first week of April, but rumors have swirled for days that McConnell will let senators leave town once they pass a mammoth stimulus package.

“I believe that our first obligation is to finish our work for the American people. After that, I think it would be wise to accelerate the break that was scheduled for April,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (R-Maine).

Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources MORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Senate Democrats offer plan to extend added jobless benefits during pandemic Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls MORE (R-Ohio) also reupped their push for the Senate to adopt remote voting, something McConnell has objected to so far.

Durbin said on Sunday that the prospect of five senators self-quarantining was inevitable and could grow.

“This could grow. Let’s be very honest about it, and the numbers could grow to the point it could reach an extreme where there’s a question of an actual quorum on the floor of the Senate,” he added.