McConnell, Pelosi decline administration offer to Congress for rapid testing
The move caps a remarkable few days, with senators deeply anxious about returning to the Capitol amid the pandemic and the White House facing criticism that it was getting better treatment than Congress.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced late Friday night that the Senate would receive three rapid-results testing machines and 1,000 tests.
President Donald Trump also weighed in Saturday morning saying that “there is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital Hill” and that “the 5 minute Abbott Test will be used.”
The Senate is scheduled to return Monday, just as Washington nears its peak of coronavirus cases.
The Trump administration’s offer to provide rapid testing came after Dr. Brian Monahan, Capitol Hill’s attending physician, informed top GOP officials Thursday that only senators and staffers who were ill would be tested. In addition, he said the test results would take two days or longer — a contrast with the White House, where anyone who meets with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence receives a rapid results test.
A senior administration official said the White House had Admiral Brett Giroir contact Monahan “to discuss needs and offer assistance.”
Democrats have ripped McConnell for bringing back the Senate while coronavirus cases continue to rise in the region, with many accusing the GOP leader of being overly focused on confirming more judicial nominees.
While members and staffers will not have access to the rapid response tests, they received additional safety guidelines from the Office of the Attending Physician on Friday. The guidelines recommend but do not require staffers to wear face coverings when they come back to the Capitol. In addition, the guidelines encourage offices to limit the amount of staff on the Hill and to telework as much as possible.