Senate Democrats to Stop Testing for Covid ahead of Vote on Partisan Spending Bill: Report

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Senate Democrats are tossing away their commitment to Covid protocols as they attempt to pass their massive spending bill, which will require the support of all 50 Democrats, according to a new report. 

Puck News reports that Senate Democrats have unofficially instituted a “don’t test, don’t tell” policy on Covid ahead of a scheduled procedural vote for the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

A senior Senate aide reportedly told the outlet, “They’re not going to delay it if a member has gotten Covid. Counterparts are saying they’re not going to test anymore. It’s not an official mandate but we all know we’re not letting Covid get in the way. The deal is happening. Less testing, just wear masks and get it done.” 

Another unnamed source suggested if lawmakers catch Covid “you can bring your ventilator and still vote.”

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, when asked about a possible plan B in the event that someone does catch Covid, said: “We’re not talking about a plan B. We’re going to stay healthy.”

At least six Democratic senators have tested positive since July 10, according to GovTrack.us.

If the Puck News report is true, Democrats are willing to potentially expose their colleagues to Covid despite spending much of the last two years advocating for more stringent Covid-mitigation strategies, including in the Capitol.

Schumer criticized Republicans in October 2020 after the Washington Post reported that GOP advisers were suggesting that voting on the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett could feature “a system in which the committee vote would be held in the Senate chamber, with ill senators voting from the visitors’ galleries above the floor so they can maintain distance.”

Schumer said at the time that then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham “must put into place a thorough testing procedure that is in accordance with CDC best practices before hearings can take place.” He called for every senator and relevant staff to have negative tests on two consecutive days and to have completed the “appropriate quarantining period,” as well as to institute mandatory testing every day of the hearings

He said then: “Failure to implement a thorough testing approach would be intentionally reckless, and could reasonably lead some wonder if Chairman Graham and Leader McConnell may not want to know the results, because it could delay this already illegitimate process.”

“Make no mistake about it, Americans are seeing the similarities between Republicans’ willingness to put their colleagues and staff at risk in pursuit of power, and their willingness to strip healthcare from tens of millions of Americans in pursuit of their ideological goals,” he added.

The report comes one day after Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) announced that she would support the Democrat-only spending package after party leaders agreed to make tweaks to several new tax proposals.

With support from Sinema, who said late Thursday that she planned to “move forward” with the bill, the measure is expected to have the votes needed to pass in the Senate via a simple majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Democrats plan to pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which allows a measure to pass with a simple majority rather than needing to meet a 60-vote threshold, with only support from Democratic senators.

The legislation, the “Inflation Reduction Act,” is essentially a pared down version of President Biden’s Build Back Better package that was effectively put to rest last year when Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) pulled his support.

The plan would allocate $369 billion for energy and climate initiatives, while another $64 billion would be used to extend expiring federal subsidies for people buying health insurance for another three years. The bill would impose new taxes to pay for it.

Despite its name, the bill’s impact on inflation is “expected to be statistically indistinguishable from zero,” according to an independent analysis performed by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.

Schumer has scheduled a procedural vote on Saturday to advance the bill. If the vote passes with a simple majority, the Senate will undertake 20 hours of debate, after which a “vote-a-rama” would occur where senators vote on a series of amendments with no time limit. Then, if the measure passes a final vote, it would head to the House.

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