Democrat with coronavirus calls on Congress to allow for remote voting as House members quarantine: 'I felt like I had a belt around my chest'

'Perhaps under a state of a declared national emergency that’s something that should be available to the Congress'

Chris Riotta
New York
@chrisriotta
Thursday 19 March 2020 19:18
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Democrat with coronavirus calls on Congress to allow for remote voting

A House Democrat has called on Congress to allow members to vote remotely after he and a colleague tested positive for Covid-19 and lawmakers they had been in contact were placed under quarantine.

Ben McAdams (D—UT) told NBC on Thursday that coronavirus feels like the “worst cold I’ve ever had” and said “it felt like I had a belt around my chest” while discussing the symptoms he has felt since testing positive for the new illness.

He added: “What I've been told by the House physician is that anyone who had close contact with me from Friday onward should be should be concerned and should probably take precautions.”

At least 26 members of Congress have confirmed they are in some form of self-quarantine or isolation as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps through the nation’s capitol, with 8,700 cases confirmed as of Thursday.

Those members include senators like Ted Cruz (R—TX) and Lindsey Graham (R—SC), as well as congressmen Ray Luján (D—NM), who said he was placing himself in self-quarantine after having been exposed to an infected individual, as well as Matt Gaetz (R—Fla), who seemingly mocked the coronavirus outbreak and wore a gas mask on Capitol Hill before he came into contact with someone with the virus at CPAC.

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Mario Díaz-Balart (R—Fla) has also tested positive for coronavirus.

“The few members that I had contact with in that period probably should be quarantined as well,” Mr McAdams said, “so it does place a limit on the ability of Congress to get stuff done.”

The congressman noted recent federal guidelines encouraging Americans to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people, saying “it’s something we should think about with Congress having 435 members”.

When asked whether Congress would allow remote voting for members, Mr McAdams said it’s “not currently allowed under House rules” but that “we need to consider changing that under certain provisions”.

He added: “I think there is value, outside of the national emergency we’re in, in having members of congress come together and talk about bills before they vote on them, but perhaps under a state of a declared national emergency that’s something that should be available to the Congress.”

The congressman said he was only tested for Covid-19 after his symptoms were “aggravated so significantly” that his doctor determined he required testing at a second visit.

He said he was concerned about a nationwide lack of testing, which likely caused the nation to lose a critical window of time in which it could have slowed transmissions and saved countless lives according to experts.

Mr McAdams also said his family was previously “social distancing” but after he tested positive for the virus, “it’s a full-on quarantine”.

“We have to expand availability of testing”, he said.

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