Overnight news that President Trump and the first lady had tested positive for the novel coronavirus shook members of Congress this morning, setting off a scramble over how to best respond to the stunning development.
Lawmakers were also rushing to account for who might have been directly exposed. Three Minnesota Republican lawmakers flew on Air Force One with Trump on Wednesday, while senators have spent the past week meeting with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in close quarters on Capitol Hill.
In another jolt, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who met with Barrett on Tuesday, announced this morning that he, too, had received a positive COVID-19 test result.
Republicans, many of whom have been slow to wear masks regularly on the Hill, offered variations of thoughts and prayers.
"I think this moment in time is a time the nation should come together and pray for the president," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.
Democrats offered the same, alongside varying degrees of jabs at an administration that has by and large eschewed mask-wearing and social distancing protocols, holding large campaign rallies and seating chairs close together at official gatherings.
"Maybe now that people see the president of the United States, with all the protection that he has, and the first lady, still having this exposure, it may be ... a learning experience, but more than learning, it has to be something that is acted upon," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on MSNBC early today.
"It is tragic," said Pelosi. "It is also very sad, but it also, again, someone going into crowds unmasked, and all the rest, is sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen."
Pelosi, who has been meeting in person with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week to negotiate another round of coronavirus relief legislation, also told MSNBC she was awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, though she noted that Mnuchin had personally informed her that he had tested negative hours earlier.
The House Democratic Caucus' vice chair, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, said she wondered whether the Trumps' diagnoses, which have both the president and first lady currently experiencing "mild symptoms," could affect the stimulus negotiations.
"I hope it will highlight how very real this pandemic is, the loss of life and livelihoods, and will pry open the negotiations with the administration and the Senate," Clark said in a brief interview.
Original story here.