Sen. Gillibrand Questions Lack of COVID-19 Safety Measures as Two Colleagues Test Positive

Nov 20, 2020

Credit WAER File Photo

New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand is blasting her chamber for a lack of COVID-19 safety measures that she says threatens the health of members and staff. At least two senators have tested positive for the virus: 87-year-old Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and 67-year-old Rick Scott of Florida.  Both republicans have been quarantining at home.  Leader Mitch McConnell did send senators home a day early for the Thanksgiving break, urging them to take necessary precautions.  But in the chamber, Senator Gillibrand says leadership doesn’t appear motivated to tighten up any rules.  

“I think people should be wearing masks on the floor. They should be wearing masks when they’re around people, period. It’s not fair for the senate staff to have to work in a workplace where people aren’t following the protocols or the rules. There’s really not been enough support for mandatory masks and more common sense ideas about how to stay safe.” said Gillibrand.

The debate over masks even came up on the floor when Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio asked Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska to wear one.

“I start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks. I can’t tell you what to do, but I know that the behaviors…” rebuked Brown.

“I don't wear a mask when I’m speaking, like most senators.  I don’t need your instruction,” Sullivan replied sharply.

“I know you don’t need my instruction, but there clearly isn’t much interest in this body in public health.” said Brown.

On top of that, there’s also no mandated testing protocol for senators as they travel to and from their districts. 

Meanwhile, Gillibrand remains optimistic about the presidential transition despite President Trump’s moves to undermine the election with lawsuits.  She says more republicans seem to be distancing themselves from Trump.