Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested on Thursday that the White House could do a better job of taking precautions against the coronavirus, following a possible superspreader event that may have led to the infections of President Donald Trump, the first lady, several Republican senators and dozens of White House aides last month.
McConnell, who is notoriously loath to criticize Trump or break with him in any way, said he’s personally avoided visiting the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue because of the White House’s lax virus protocols.
“I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” the 78-year-old majority leader said at an event in Kentucky.
“If any of you have been around me since May the 1st, I’ve said, ‘Wear your mask. Practice social distancing.’ … Now, you’ve heard of other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it,” he added at another event.
In sharp contrast to Trump, McConnell has placed a big emphasis on mask-wearing and social distancing in the Senate and at public events in his home state, touting those steps as the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable groups.
The recent outbreak that has infected at least 30 White House staffers and other GOP officials has directly threatened McConnell’s majority in the Senate, which is racing to confirm a conservative Supreme Court justice before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Three Republican senators, including two Judiciary Committee members, have announced testing positive for the virus following the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony. Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) are all currently quarantining. If any more GOP senators contract the virus, it could derail the confirmation process and postpone a final vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior this week may also threaten the reelection bids of GOP incumbents facing tough fights, which could hand Democrats control of the Senate.
The president is likely still contagious and on steroids since leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier this week. He took off his mask prior to walking into the White House on Monday and actually worked out of the Oval Office on Wednesday, possibly putting other White House staff at risk.
On Thursday, Trump posted to Twitter a video message addressing senior citizens, a group that polls have shown him losing by large margins to Democratic rival Joe Biden.
“I’m a senior. I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell ‘em, but I’m a senior,” Trump said in the video. “You’re not vulnerable, but they like to say ‘the vulnerable,’ but you’re the least vulnerable. But, for this one thing, you are vulnerable. So am I.”
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