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McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-Ky.) will temporarily halt in-person Republican lunches amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, an aide confirmed to The Hill Saturday night.

 

"With the recent nationwide spikes, extra precautions are necessary to keep Senators and all campus staff as safe as possible," a senior GOP leadership aide told The Hill.

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The decision to suspend in-person lunches comes as Congress has seen a rise in coronavirus cases among its members. 

Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley: Iowa can't afford to be 'babysitting' unaccompanied minors Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (R-Iowa) both tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. 

The majority leader informed Senate Republicans of the change on Saturday, according to the aide. They also said that zero coronavirus cases had been linked to the GOP lunches or floor activity.

Since May, Republican caucus members have attended socially distanced lunches in the Senate Hart building while Democrats have held weekly caucus lunches via phone call.

Now, Republican senators will have to make calls in place of lunches.

Senate voting will remain in person and safety precautions will be maintained, such as keeping chamber doors open, holding votes open for extended periods and encouraging members to leave once they have voted, according to Politico.

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Absences due to the pandemic in the Senate chamber have led to unintended stalls in its agenda recently.

The upper chamber was unable to move ahead on Federal Reserve nominee Judy Shelton partly due to Scott and Grassley quarantining after being exposed to people who had the virus, Politico reported. 

The Senate is slated to return Monday after the holiday break. 

News about the lunches comes as the United States endures a staggering surge of coronavirus cases. The country recorded over 200,000 infections on Friday alone.