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Schumer demands Senate coronavirus testing program after Trump diagnosis

Schumer demands Senate coronavirus testing program after Trump diagnosis
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate to vote next week on repealing Trump methane rule  Joe Lieberman to push senators on DC statehood On The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: LeBron James's 'racist rants' are divisive, nasty North Carolina man accused of fraudulently obtaining .5M in PPP loans Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE's coronavirus diagnosis underscores the need for testing and contact tracing in the Senate, where lawmakers are not routinely tested.

“This episode demonstrates that the Senate needs a testing and contact tracing program for Senators, staff, and all who work in the Capitol complex. We simply cannot allow the administration's cavalier attitude to adversely affect this branch of government," Schumer said in a statement.

"It is imperative that all results be made public in order to contain a possible outbreak and so we can determine the need for Senators and staff to quarantine or self-isolate," he added.

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Schumer's statement, coupled with Trump's disclosure early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie The Memo: Specter of vaccine hesitancy rises after J&J blow Trump says Prince Philip's death an 'irreplaceable loss' for UK MORE had tested positive for COVID-19, put a renewed focus on the lack of regular testing in Congress.

Asked about bringing testing to the Capitol, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerJoe Lieberman to push senators on DC statehood House Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time Capitol Police chief: Threats against lawmakers up nearly 65 percent since last year MORE (D-Md.) said he had spoken with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Pelosi pushes for drug pricing measure | South Africa to resume administering Johnson & Johnson vaccine | Early data indicate Pfizer, Moderna vaccines safe for pregnant women Allow a vote on the 'Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act' Female Republicans 'horrified' by male GOP lawmaker's description of Cheney: report MORE (D-Calif.) about the idea on Friday, but no decision had been made.

“We’re looking at it,” Hoyer told reporters, adding that he expected a decision to be made “before we get back.”

The House is poised to leave town Friday, with no plans to return until after the Nov. 3 election unless there's a deal on another coronavirus relief package.

Most lawmakers fly back to their home states each week and maintain close contact with other members, reporters and their staff when in the Capitol. Though Pelosi has mandated the use of masks in the House chamber, the Senate has not taken a similar step. Most senators wear masks in the Capitol, but the practice is less consistent in the nearby Senate office buildings.

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Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTim Scott to deliver GOP response to Biden's speech to Congress GOP state attorneys general urge Biden, Congress not to expand Supreme Court The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (R-Ky.) turned down a White House offer earlier this year of rapid testing for the Capitol complex, saying that they wanted to "keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly."

But they've come under pressure to provide routine testing for lawmakers, staff and reporters who interact with them.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP attorneys general group in turmoil after Jan. 6 Trump rally Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban St. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership and close ally to McConnell, has been in talks with the Capitol physician. But he indicated in August that both Pelosi and McConnell weren't on board with the idea.

“We’re definitely putting a plan together that would allow us to do that on the Senate side. I think the House thinks they have greater complications than maybe we think we do, but I hope so," he said at the time.

"But both the leader and the Speaker have been reluctant to do this, and I know on our side I think whatever we make available to members would be equally available to staffers and people who work in the building," Blunt added.

Schumer said Friday that, as part of the response to Trump's diagnosis, the White House should implement contact tracing including for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, and anyone she was in contact with. The White House said Barrett is tested daily and that her test came back negative Friday.

"What happened to President Trump is a reminder of why the whole country, including Senators and staff, must follow the science and follow the protocols laid out by the CDC and public health officials," Schumer said. "When you ignore the science, you don’t wear a mask, and you don’t follow social distancing guidelines, it puts you and everyone around you at risk. Following science is a must."