Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew a stark contrast Thursday between his handling of the coronavirus in the Senate and the approach taken by the White House, which has experienced an outbreak among senior officials and the president.
During an event in northern Kentucky, McConnell said that he had not gone to the White House in more than two months because of how it has addressed the coronavirus.
“I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” the Kentucky Republican said.
McConnell, 78, added that he continues to speak frequently with President Donald Trump by phone.
McConnell’s remarks come as the White House has become a hotbed recently for the virus. Trump was hospitalized over the weekend after he contracted the disease, and several of his top aides as well as White House staff members have been infected.
While McConnell, a polio survivor, did not rebuke the president directly, he has repeatedly called for wearing masks, both in floor speeches and at events. Meanwhile, the president for months refused to wear a face covering, and even mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the Sept. 29 debate for wearing the “biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
The Senate is currently out of session, after three senators announced they tested positive for the virus over a 24-hour period. Two of the senators — Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — attended the White House’s Rose Garden ceremony announcing Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The event has been linked to recent cases. More than 30 White House staffers and other contacts tested positive.
The Senate is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Most senators, with a few exceptions, wear masks and committee hearings have taken on a “hybrid” format, where senators can choose whether to attend remotely.
But in the wake of recent cases, several senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling for a more robust testing regime in the Senate. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell rejected an offer earlier this year from the White House for rapid tests and so far neither are suggesting a change of course.