Harris tests negative after rendezvous with COVID-positive Texas Democrats

Harris tests negative after rendezvous with COVID-positive Texas Democrats
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Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for coronavirus after she met with a group of Texas Democrats who fled their home state to stonewall GOP-backed voting bills, some of whom were COVID-19 positive, according to White House officials.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday the test was conducted as part of a routine medical inspection and not related to her meeting with the Texas lawmakers. At least five state legislators have received positive COVID-19 diagnoses since they fled Austin and boarded private jets to Washington, D.C., last week.

"I think the vice president’s office put out that she was tested, and there was no detection of COVID-19," Psaki said. "They also put out some specific details about their proximity to the individuals who tested positive, as well. We take these precautions incredibly seriously and abide by the guidance of our help and medical experts."

Harris met the lawmakers on Tuesday, and she checked into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday for what the White House said was a "routine doctor's appointment."

Psaki was asked to comment on photographs of the legislators who were seen maskless on the planes ahead of their departure.

TEXAS DEMOCRATS' WASHINGTON TRIP TO BLOCK VOTING BILLS WILL COST $1.5 MILLION, LAWMAKER SAYS

"I don’t think I’m going to be in a position here to assess what safety precautions they may or may not have taken," she said. "Obviously, these individuals were out there trying to elevate the issue of an individual’s right to vote."

"What’s important for everybody to know is that the vice president was tested," she added. "She, of course, takes these precautions seriously, and we would follow any advice our public health officials give us."

Nearly 60 Democrats in the Lone Star State left Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a special session to deliberate on S.B. 1 and H.B. 3, a pair of bills that would ban drive-thru voting, implement more comprehensive voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots, and prohibit officials from sending voting applications to those who did not request them.

S.B. 1 was passed by the Senate amid the theatrics, but H.B. 3 has been stalled, as the House lacks the two-thirds quorum necessary to vote on the legislation.

The move by the lawmakers, which has drawn ire from their Republican colleagues who now lack the quorum to do business in the House, was projected to cost $1.5 million, state Rep. Armando Walle said in an interview with NBC News. He estimated the flights alone cost $100,000.

A wire transfer from the House Democratic Caucus paid for the jets, and one House member put a block of hotel rooms on a personal American Express card. It is unclear whether taxpayers will end up paying partially or wholly for the Democrats' trip.

Democrats have insisted no taxpayer funds are being used in the excursion. However, their Republican counterparts have posited that upward of $1 million will be paid by residents due to prolonging a special session.

If Democrats do not return promptly, the special session could last for nearly one month, with legislators being paid per diem rates during the process. On Wednesday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan requested the Democrats return their $221 per-day wages if they were outside the Lone Star State.

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"Under the Texas Constitution ... per diem must be paid to each member for each day of a special session, regardless of whether the member is actually present," Phelan wrote in a memorandum. "I am requesting all members who are intentionally absent for the purpose of preventing the House from conducting business during the special session to return your constitutional per diem to the state's treasury immediately upon receipt."

On Tuesday, House Republicans voted to send law enforcement to hunt down the lawmakers "under warrant of arrest if necessary" after the leaders lacked a two-thirds quorum when they tried to bring one of the bills to a vote with only 80 members of the normal 150-member government body present.

Two motions to initiate the move passed by an overwhelming 76-4 margin, with Democrats who chose not to vacate the state as the only "no" votes.

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Tags: News, Kamala Harris, Jen Psaki, White House, Coronavirus, Texas, Democrats, Voting

Original Author: Jake Dima

Original Location: Harris tests negative after rendezvous with COVID-positive Texas Democrats

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