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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 McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.) broke the news: One of their own, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' 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 Romney'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 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 LeeRepublicans wrestle over removing Trump Lawmakers, leaders offer condolences following the death of Capitol Police officer GOP senators urging Trump officials to not resign after Capitol chaos 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 GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Colo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are already self-quarantined for exposure unrelated to Paul. Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Additional airlines ban guns on flights to DC ahead of inauguration MORE (R-S.C.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration For platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Former GOP congressman says he's leaving party: 'This has become a cult' 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) Moran'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Electoral College fight splits GOP as opposition grows to election challenge Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation 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 CramerMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies Republican senators now regret not doing more to contain Trump 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 Sanders'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal Former Sanders spokesperson: Progressives 'shouldn't lose sight' of struggling Americans during pandemic 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 ReedJack ReedCongress overrides Trump veto for the first time Biden calls for the nation to 'unite, heal and rebuild in 2021' Lawmakers share New Year's messages: 'Cheers to brighter days ahead' MORE (D-R.I.) extended an arm and jokingly told a reporter to “stay away.”

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Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher Young'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots GOP senator confronted by Trump supporters over electoral challenge: 'The law matters' MORE (R-Ind.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSweeping COVID-19, spending deal hits speed bumps McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach MORE (R-Idaho), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development MORE (R-Wyo.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel 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 CornynCruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Rick Scott will 'likely' join challenge to election results 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 SchatzFor platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Senate Democrats rebuke GOP colleagues who say they'll oppose Electoral College results 11 Senate Republicans say they will oppose Electoral College results Wednesday 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 Collins'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump MORE (R-Maine).

Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Schumer says Democrats will probe extremist groups after Capitol attack Trump's legacy is discord and division MORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze Trump calls for 'NO violence' amid concerns of threats around inauguration Security concerns mount ahead of Biden inauguration 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.