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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 McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) broke the news: One of their own, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul suggests restaurants should hire COVID-19 survivors as servers during pandemic Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test 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 RomneyThe Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds Will anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate 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 LeeWhite House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night Pence adviser Marty Obst tests positive for COVID-19 Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 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 GardnerDemocrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Trump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in MORE (R-Colo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are already self-quarantined for exposure unrelated to Paul. Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days MORE (R-S.C.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus 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) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes 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 cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project 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 SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden 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 ReedGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales MORE (D-R.I.) extended an arm and jokingly told a reporter to “stay away.”

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Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRepublicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Vulnerable Republicans break with Trump on ObamaCare lawsuit Senate GOP eyes early exit MORE (R-Ind.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoBarrett says she did not strike down ObamaCare in moot court case GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus 22 GOP attorneys general urge Congress to confirm Barrett as Supreme Court justice MORE (R-Idaho), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (R-Wyo.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy 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 CornynTrump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Dallas Morning News poll shows Biden leading Trump in Texas 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 SchatzSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing 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 CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas Roberts to administer judicial oath to Barrett Tuesday MORE (R-Maine).

Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety 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.