Senate

McConnell says he hasn’t visited White House in two months due to coronavirus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of how it responded to the coronavirus.

Speaking in Kentucky, McConnell said that while he talks to President Trump frequently, he hasn’t been to the White House in person since Aug. 6.

“Because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell told reporters.

At a second stop in Kentucky, McConnell added that he had avoided going to the White House because he “personally didn’t feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate for the Senate.” 

McConnell’s comments come in the week after President Trump and roughly two dozen people in his orbit have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Trump announced late last week that he had tested positive, and, since then, three GOP senators have also announced they were infected. Two of the three senators, Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (N.C.), were at a Rose Garden event late last month where Trump named Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Senate implemented social distancing steps in May including spreading out caucus meetings and committee hearings. While Republicans still meet in person, in a larger room for lunch, Democrats have moved all their caucus meetings to phone calls.

The Senate doesn’t have a mask mandate, however, most senators wear masks around the Capitol, and there are also signs to remind people to socially distance.

Unlike the Senate, the White House has rapid testing for those in contact with the president. But there have also been several events, including Barrett’s nomination ceremony, where the White House did not require social distancing and most people at the event did not wear masks.

Trump also hasn’t worn a mask at recent rallies. Before the president’s diagnosis, many White House officials were seen walking around without masks.

McConnell has brushed off calls for a formal testing program in the Senate, arguing that they have been able to contain the virus. He also appeared, on Thursday, to take a veiled jab at the White House.

“You’ve heard about other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it. But in the Senate … we practiced social distancing and wore a mask and are continuing to operate normally adapting to the post-coronavirus situation,” McConnell said.

McConnell reiterated that wearing a mask and social distancing was the best option until there is a vaccine.

“I think the message I have for everybody is … wear your mask and practice social distancing. It’s the only way we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine,” he said.

Updated at 2:25 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Ruth Bader Ginsburg Senate Stimulus Thom Tillis Trump positive test White House
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