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Pelosi, McConnell decline White House offer of rapid COVID-19 tests

In a rare bipartisan joint statement, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now MORE (R-Ky.) turned down the White House's offer of rapid COVID-19 testing kits as the Senate returns to the Capitol this week amid concerns about the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

"Congress is grateful for the Administration’s generous offer to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing capabilities to Capitol Hill, but we respectfully decline the offer at this time," the congressional leaders said. "Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly."

The Senate will reconvene Monday at 5 p.m. on a confirmation vote for Robert Feitel to become inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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McConnell has been adamant about the Senate returning this week, despite pushback from fellow senators. The House, which was also supposed to return the Capitol this week, pushed back its return date after consulting with Capitol physician Brian Monahan. 

Monahan told Republican aides on Thursday that he didn't have enough COVID-19 tests to test every lawmakers slated to return and that he didn't have access to the 15-minute tests that are used by the White House. He said that he will only test lawmakers who have exhibited symptoms connected to the virus: cough, fever, difficulty breathing, runny nose and fatigue. Asymptomatic lawmakers will not be tested.

On Friday, McConnell told Fox News that the Senate “will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe” so that senators can "honor [their] constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person.”