Senate Democrats Propose Mandatory Mask Wearing, COVID-19 Testing Among Senators

October 7, 2020 Updated: October 7, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Wednesday introduced a resolution requiring masks and establishing a formal testing program in Senate.

The two Democrats’ proposal calls for a mask mandate, enforcement of social distancing in public areas of the Senate, and a contact-tracing program. It would also ban senators from going to a committee or the Senate floor unless their COVID-19 tests return negative.

In addition, the resolution would mandate two negative tests on separate days for anyone returning to the Capitol, as well as a 14-day quarantine period for anyone exposed to someone who contracted the CCP virus.

“The U.S. Senate has become a COVID-19 hotspot and we need to take immediate action, guided by the best science, to put in place additional protections to safeguard the health of the Senate complex workers, Senate staff, and Senators,” Schumer said in a statement. “Senate Republicans must join us here in reality and acknowledge that through their inaction, they are creating a truly dangerous situation.”

Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) have tested positive for the virus. Three more Republican senators, namely James Lankford (Okla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), have each tested negative but are self-isolating because they interacted with their infected colleagues. All of them, expect Lankford, serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recessed the Senate for two weeks after three senators’ positive diagnosis, but he expects Barrett’s confirmation hearing and a full Senate vote to take place as scheduled.

“Judge Barrett’s hearings will begin one week from today,” McConell wrote on Twitter Monday, adding that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has all the tools to conduct a hybrid hearing. “We will not stop working for the American people because Democrats are afraid they may lose a vote.”

Johnson also said on Monday during an interview with a Colorado radio station that he is willing to go to the Senate “in a moon suit,” if that’s what is required to vote in person for the confirmation of Barrett to the high court.

“We think this is pretty important,” Johnson said. “I think people can be fairly confident that Mitch McConnell is dedicated to holding this vote.”

Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) also reported they have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, meaning that they were previously exposed to the virus.