Top Republican Mitch McConnell avoids White House over Covid-19

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Republican leader Mitch McConnell, 78, on Thursday revealed he had not been to the White House since August due to the way it has handled Covid-19.

The Kentucky Senator said he spoke to the president frequently over the phone but had not visited since 6 August.

Mr McConnell, a polio survivor, contrasted the White House with the Senate, where lawmakers are urged to wear masks and social distance.

His comments come as the White House deals with a Covid-19 outbreak.

Since President Donald Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, at least two dozen people in his circle and staff at the White House have reported infections. First Lady Melania Trump, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and adviser Stephen Miller are among the positive tests.

Two Republican Senators – Mike Lee and Thom Tillis – have also tested positive after attending a White House event, though it cannot be confirmed where they caught the virus.

Another Republican Senator, Ron Johnson, who did not attend the event, has also tested positive.

Speaking to reporters in Kentucky, Mr McConnell said he steered clear of the White House in the last two months “because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine”.

He later also noted that he “personally didn’t feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness” in the way he felt “was appropriate for the Senate”.

While the top Republican has called for masks and distancing, he has stopped short of enacting a mask mandate in the Senate. As the majority leader of the upper chamber, Mr McConnell is responsible for making such rules.

At the end of July, his House of Representatives counterpart, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ordered face coverings be worn in the lower chamber after a congressman tested positive.

Both lawmakers rejected an offer from Mr Trump to have rapid Covid-19 tests available for lawmakers, however.

Mr McConnell continued his apparent subtle critique of the White House when he mentioned the struggles of “other places that have had a different view”, regarding a different approach to protections.

“And they are, you know, paying the price for it,” the top Republican said, adding that the Senate was operating normally thanks to its Covid-19 precautions.

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McConnell and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been seen wearing masks

Mr McConnell also emphasised mask-wearing and social distancing were the best way to combat the virus until a vaccine is available.

“It’s the only way we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine.”

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