The majority leader, who has refused to implement a Senate mask mandate, is afraid Republicans won't get enough done in the lame-duck session otherwise.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly admonished his Republican caucus on Tuesday to "be careful" not to get the coronavirus. According the NBC News, the Kentucky Republican was worried any illnesses might impede his ability to rush through more Donald Trump nominees in the lame-duck session.
But McConnell has refused to take basic steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 — in the Senate and nationally — for months.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told the outlet that McConnell used a private GOP lunch to admonish his caucus to protect themselves, so they don't miss votes after Thanksgiving. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, leaving Republicans unable to ram through a controversial Federal Reserve Board nominee for a four-year term.
"I think that with what we want to get done, it’s going to make it tricky if we have folks who aren’t here," Braun explained. "It’s a fairly ambitious schedule and I think it’s important for everybody to be careful, like the Leader said."
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) confirmed to the outlet that McConnell warned his Republican minions to take precautions, so they can be at "fighting strength" for the remaining days of Trump's term.
But McConnell has declined to take many of the needed steps to keep his colleagues safer during the pandemic. In July, he refused to back a face mask mandate for the Senate, like the one adopted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As NBC noted this week, the chamber still has no mask mandate in place.
"It appears not to be necessary since everybody seems to be doing it," he told PBS, claiming the Senate has "had good luck without a requirement."
"I believe just about every one of my members is wearing a mask, and we have since the first of May when we resumed," he continued. "We've had good compliance with that on the Senate side, without a mandate. And so we're getting compliance the voluntary — in the old-fashioned way. Everybody is doing it."
But at least five other Senate Republicans have tested positive to date.
And not all senators have been wearing masks in and around the Senate. Earlier this week, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) refused to wear one, while presiding over the chamber — even after Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked him to.
Staffers from both parties told NBC News that they felt unsafe coming into work, with one saying the leadership was not even doing "the bare minimum" to protect them from the virus.
McConnell has also refused to even allow a vote on a $3 trillion relief bill — passed in May by the House — that would have provided $75 billion to improve tracing, testing, and treatment and would have ensured workplace protections and hazard pay for essential workers.
More than two weeks ago, the American people gave President-elect Joe Biden a decisive popular and Electoral College majority.
But despite once professing that the public should get a "voice" on judges, McConnell and his caucus have mounted a lame-duck push to confirm as many Trump judges as possible to lifetime appointments.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.