It’s usually mentioned that Congress is a microcosm of society. That’s solely amplified throughout coronavirus. As COVID-19 burns by means of the nation, it’s burning by means of the Capitol as nicely.

You’ve heard about fights over masks on the grocery retailer? Strive the ground of america Senate.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tangled verbally not too long ago with Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, over carrying masks within the Senate chamber. Brown was about to provide a speech earlier than the Senate and Sullivan was presiding from the dais.

Brown, carrying a masks as he spoke close to the rear of the chamber, requested that Sullivan “please put on a masks as he speaks.”

Sullivan boiled.

“I don’t put on a masks once I’m talking, like most senators” snarled Sullivan, staring daggers at Brown. “I don’t want your instruction.”


Yours actually has by no means seen the presiding officer of both the Home or Senate handle a fellow lawmaker with such anger from the dais.

“I do know you don’t want my instruction,” retorted Brown. “However there clearly isn’t a lot curiosity on this physique in public well being. Now we have a president who hasn’t proven up at a coronavirus activity power assembly in months. Now we have a majority chief that calls us again right here to vote on an unqualified nominee and on the identical time to vote on choose after choose after choose, exposing the entire individuals who can’t say something. I perceive. Folks in entrance of you and the presiding officer. And exposing all of the employees right here. And the bulk chief simply doesn’t appear to care.”

Outgoing Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., drew the eye of Senate safety employees and doorkeepers after she posed maskless for photos with aides simply outdoors the Senate chamber.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., puts on his face mask as he arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Facebook and Twitter's actions around the closely contested election on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Washington.. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., places on his face masks as he arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee listening to on Fb and Twitter’s actions across the carefully contested election on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Washington.. (Invoice Clark/Pool by way of AP)

Home Freedom Caucus Chief Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., tweeted that “Masks don’t save your metropolis, county, state or nation from the unfold of COVID-19.” Biggs known as masks “a logo of management.”

The variety of coronavirus instances on the Capitol spiked. The constructing pulsed prefer it hadn’t since March. The Senate and Home had been each in session. Plus, incoming Home freshmen descended on Capitol Hill for his or her orientation.


Rep.-elect Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, wasn’t there. She examined optimistic for coronavirus.

Two of the three oldest members of both physique contracted coronavirus. First, there was 87-year-old Rep. Don Younger, R-Alaska, elected in 1973 and the longest-serving Home Republican in historical past. Then, 87-year-old Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley serves as President Professional Tempore of the Senate, the most-senior member of the bulk occasion. As President Professional Tempore, the Iowa Republican is third in line to the presidency.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., additionally contracted coronavirus.

However earlier than testing optimistic, each Grassley and Scott had been in quarantine.

The absences of senators because of the pandemic started sidetracking Senate enterprise.

The Senate hoped to verify Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve Board final week. Shelton is controversial as a result of she desires to weaken the central financial institution and helps a return to the gold customary.

However the Senate voted towards breaking a filibuster on Shelton’s nomination.

She wanted 51 yeas to clear the filibuster bar. Nonetheless, the Senate might solely muster 47 yeas to advance Shelton to a affirmation vote.

The vote was 47 senators in favor of terminating the filibuster. Fifty senators opposed.

McConnell supported Shelton. However the Chief switched his vote to “nay.” Senate guidelines permit a senator on the prevailing facet of a roll name (on this occasion, the noes) to ask for a revote.


Shelton would probably be sitting on the Federal Reserve Board now had been it not for the pandemic and the absences of senators. 

As we all the time say: It’s in regards to the math. It’s in regards to the math. It’s in regards to the math.

Look at the parliamentary algebra right here:

There have been three absences: Grassley, Scott and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Grassley and Scott are in quarantine and supported the Shelton nomination. Alexander didn’t.


Had McConnell not modified his vote, the hassle to finish the filibuster nonetheless would have failed, 48-49. 

Add Alexander, and that’s 50 votes towards ending the Shelton filibuster.


Then throw in Grassley and Scott as yeas. Then you definitely’re at a 50-50 tie.

Underneath the phrases of Nuclear Choice I (which curbed some filibusters in 2013), they wanted a easy majority to halt debate on an govt department nominee.

Thus, with a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence might solid the deciding vote for Shelton.

Nonetheless, it by no means got here to that.

Absences short-circuited the method.

The Home of Representatives imposed distant voting within the spring. However the Senate’s proof against such a plan. Both you’re there within the chamber to vote – otherwise you’re not.

Within the Home, members can vote remotely if they’re sick, are in danger well being sensible or care for somebody with well being points of their residence. These members might report their votes to a “proxy” who proclaims votes on the behalf of their colleague on the ground. The Home then robotically rolls these ballots into the system.

The stunted Shelton affirmation course of might augur issues to return. The Senate might have the votes to verify somebody or move laws. However with no distant voting scheme, the physique is on the mercy of the virus.

Coronavirus spreads across the nation. And the job of lawmakers is to go to their districts and states, then fly to Washington for conferences and votes, after which return. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Issues are rising as as to if Congress ought to even reconvene after Thanksgiving. Some members have instructed solely assembly to fund the federal government by Dec. 11 and maybe vote on a coronavirus reduction invoice – if there’s ever a deal. Instances are spiking nationwide. And up to date examples present members could possibly be bringing COVID-19 with them – or taking it residence with them.


Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., lives simply throughout the river from the Capitol in Northern Virginia. He handles a number of proxy votes for lawmakers who aren’t current. Beyer says he doesn’t even go to the Capitol till the votes are known as. He occasions it so he can simply pull in to the Capitol plaza, run up the steps, report the entire proxy votes and depart once more. The congressman says which means he solely has to spend a couple of minutes contained in the Capitol.

Congress is a mirrored image of America. And if the nation is fighting coronavirus, Capitol Hill is, too.

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