March 22, 2020 / 7:17 PM / 6 days ago

Rand Paul becomes first U.S. senator to test positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said on Sunday, becoming the first member of the Senate to announce he has COVID-19, as the number of U.S. cases of the respiratory disease grows.

The 57-year-old Kentucky Republican has no symptoms and was tested out of an “abundance of caution” given his recent travels, according to a statement, which came as the Senate prepared to take up a massive economic relief bill.

Other U.S. senators self-quarantined as a precaution in recent weeks, and at least two members of the House of Representatives have also tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

It was not immediately clear when Paul was last at the Capitol. Republican U.S. senators met repeatedly last week, and a CNN reporter on Twitter posted a photo of him meeting with colleagues on Friday.

The arrival of the coronavirus in the U.S. Senate threatens to complicate lawmakers’ efforts to pass the spending bill aimed at shoring up the nation’s economy as the crisis shutters huge swaths of the country.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday he planned to bring up the legislation for a vote on Monday.

“I think it adds a sense of urgency. I think it creates even more of an emergency for us to deal with it, so I don’t think we really have a choice but to get this done tomorrow,” Republican Senator John Thune said.

Members of the Democratic-led House, which must also vote on the measure if it passes the Republican-led Senate, have also raised the issue of proximity and risk with in-person voting, and have urged other options in the face of the pandemic.

“We may lack a quorum shortly if Leader (McConnell) doesn’t realize the urgency of remote voting,” Democratic U.S. Senator Brian Schatz tweeted. “The Senate still has to do its job, but there’s simply no reason we have to do it in a bunch of gilded rooms and infect each other, endangering our ability to pass legislation.”

Many members of Congress are also aged 60 and older, a group that public health officials have warned is at greater risk along with those who have other health conditions.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives as the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump continues in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Paul suffered a lung injury in 2017 during an altercation with a neighbor that led to six broken ribs.

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy said lawmakers should quickly finish the spending bill and adjourn.

“We should maintain our social distancing but once we get through our business, whenever we’re through with our business, we should do what every other American is being asked to do, which is to shelter in place,” Cassidy said.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Linda So; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney

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