Sen. Ron Johnson tests positive for coronavirus
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the third senator to announce in the past two days that they had contracted the virus.
Johnson’s office said in a statement on Saturday that he was exposed to an individual on Sept. 29 who has since tested positive for the virus.
“After learning of this exposure, the senator was tested yesterday afternoon. This test came back positive,” his office said. “Senator Johnson feels healthy and is not experiencing symptoms. He will remain isolated until given the all-clear by his doctor.”
Johnson’s diagnosis comes as the country is reeling after President Trump announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He is now at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a move the White House said was being taken “out of an abundance of caution.”
In addition to Johnson, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) both said on Friday that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Unlike Lee and Tillis, Johnson is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was not at the White House on Saturday for Trump’s announcement that he was picking Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who was at the White House on Saturday, tested negative on Friday but a spokesman said that he would work remotely from Nebraska until Oct. 12 and receive further testing.
The absence of the four GOP senators caps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) normal 53-47 majority at 49 senators.
Before Friday, only two senators had been known to test positive for the virus: Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), in March and August, respectively.
Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Bob Casey (Pa.) previously said they had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, an indication they had previously been exposed to the virus.
The uptick in cases in the Senate will likely pour fuel on already simmering frustrations about the lack of a formal testing program in Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and McConnell previously rejected an offer from the White House to have rapid testing at the Capitol, saying at the time that they wanted to keep resources directed to front-line workers.
But several lawmakers on Friday urged congressional leaders to establish a testing program in the Capitol, where lawmakers, who travel back to their home states on the weekend, stay in close contact with each other, their staff and a scaled-back group of reporters.
“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,” Senate Minority Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added that McConnell should require testing for every senator who attended the White House event, saying the potential exposure “could pose a major threat to the safety of the Capitol complex.”
“Furthermore, Senator McConnell needs to finally move forward with a mandatory mask policy in the Capitol complex and implementation of a regular testing program for all Senators and all Senate staff,” he added.
McConnell, however, gave no signal while speaking in Kentucky on Friday that he intends to either change the Senate’s schedule until the risk of potential exposure is known, or establish a formal testing program.
McConnell, during the event at a Kentucky hospital, also declined to say if he had been tested this week.
“We’re following the advice of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC in how we operate the Senate and so far we’ve been able to do it quite successfully,” McConnell said when asked about a formal testing regime.
— Updated at 10 a.m.