A surge in coronavirus cases across the country and on Capitol Hill has seemingly prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take additional precautionary measures.
Going forward, McConnell has canceled the Senate Republicans’ weekly in-person luncheons, according to a report from The Hill.
In-person lunches canceled
The change was confirmed to The Hill by an unnamed senior aide to GOP leadership, who said, “With the recent nationwide spikes, extra precautions are necessary to keep Senators and all campus staff as safe as possible.”
However, it was also noted that, to the best of the Senate GOP leadership’s knowledge, not a single case of coronavirus has been traced back to one of the Senate Republican caucus’ lunches.
Despite the pandemic, Senate Republicans have continued to hold their in-person lunches in the Senate Hart building, albeit with social distancing measures in place since May. In contrast, Senate Democrats stopped holding in-person lunches some time ago and have instead held a weekly caucus-wide conference call throughout the pandemic.
It is expected that the Republicans will now emulate their Democratic colleagues and get together via conference calls for the foreseeable future.
Politico reported that McConnell’s decision to temporarily suspend the in-person lunches comes on the heels of recent reports of positive coronavirus cases involving Republican senators.
Both Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rick Scott (R-FL) tested positive in recent weeks and are quarantined. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) also tested positive recently, though that may have been a false positive as she remained asymptomatic and has since tested negative.
Meanwhile, the Senate will continue to go about its business in-person with the other mitigation measures that had already been put into place by McConnell, such as leaving the chamber doors open to increase airflow, as well as increasing the length of time for senators to cast a vote and discouraging the congregation of members on the Senate floor.
Otherwise, business as usual
The Senate is currently on a break for the Thanksgiving holiday but is set to return to business as usual on Monday.
Politico reported that at the top of McConnell’s to-do list is to continue holding confirmation votes on President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees and executive branch appointments.
Also on the agenda is a deadline of Dec. 11 to agree on funding to keep the federal government open, to say nothing of the ongoing negotiations on another coronavirus relief package.