Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is confident that the U.S. Senate doesn't need to follow suit with its own mask mandate like the one House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued Wednesday in light of Rep. Louie Gohmert's positive coronavirus test.
"I think we're covering every base we have to and you don't have to have a rule," Grassley told Fox News, citing the fact that most senators have been wearing masks on the Senate floor when votes are cast and staffers are maintaining social distance in offices with members.
This all comes after the congressional attending physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, issued an "important notice" upon the direction of Pelosi to require face coverings in all House office buildings as well as on the House floor.
There have also been renewed calls for regular virus testing for members and staff in light of Gohmert's positive test results. Unlike at the White House, where President Trump is tested daily, there is no consistent testing regimen for elected representatives in the halls of Congress and their aides.
"I think that we should wear the masks. I also think we should have testing here though," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "I know the speaker had declined the opportunity to have the Abbott rapid test that they have in the White House. I laid out more than two months ago, how to have testing, how to have this building open up in a safe manner, and I think we need to look at that."
Gohmert, R-Texas, is the ninth member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Some members who were close to Gohmert in recent days have decided to self-quarantine for 14 days out of precaution, like Reps. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
As the mask debate heats up in Congress, talks are ongoing for the next phase of the coronavirus relief package before the August recess. Those discussions are in a stalemate as Senate Republicans and the White House try to get on the same page, while House Democrats stand by their HEROES Act.
The $1 trillion Republican bill is the alternative to the House’s HEROES act, the $3 trillion relief legislation passed in May. The HEALS Act stands for the package’s focus on Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools.
The relief legislation includes $105 billion in school funding, more than the House offered in its proposal, with the goal of retrofitting schools and universities with coronavirus precautions to open for on-campus learning.
It also includes a second round of stimulus checks at the same $1,200 amount as in the CARES act, along with a “sequel” to the Paycheck Protection Program to mitigate layoffs.
Grassley remains optimistic however about a deal being reached.
"I look at it this way," he said. "I would like to by next Friday, have a compromise between what the House of Representatives has passed and what we put on the table Monday, a giant compromise to be worked out...So if we could take care of the unemployment, take care of people not being evicted, and we can get enough money for the schools and universities to operate this fall, I think we ought to pass those three things by next Friday."
The debate over whether to pass a short-term extension of unemployment insurance benefits before it expires Friday in lieu of a massive omnibus relief bill has become a major sticking point.
Speaking on the floor, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had harsh words for his colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle saying, "As the country is about to careen over several cliffs as a result of the Republican delay, dithering, and disunity, our friends on the other side are now scrambling. It's dawning on them now, not a week ago, not three weeks ago, not two months ago, that we're facing a cliff on unemployment."
However, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who are leading discussions on behalf of the president, say they won't be blamed for unemployed Americans not getting help.
"If enhanced unemployment expires it will not be because of Senate Republicans and the president... we're still miles apart on a number of issues...there are more issues we're apart on," Meadows said to reporters Wednesday.
Fox's Morgan Phillips contributed to this report