McConnell hasn’t been to White House since early August because of lax COVID rules

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he has not been to the White House since August because of its lax policy on the coronavirus.

McConnell made the comments shortly after a press conference, following President Trump’s diagnosis with the coronavirus.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks towards the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Washington. 

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks towards the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Washington. 
(AP)

Despite being in constant communication with the president, the Kentucky Republican said he hasn’t been to the White House since August 6.

“My impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said.

INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT WARNS TRUMP STILL ISN’T OUT OF THE WOODS IN COVID-19 BATTLE

He reiterated the comments at a second event later in the day, saying that he avoids going to the White House because he “personally didn’t feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate for the Senate.”

The Senate has implemented strict safety measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including social distancing and spreading out caucus meetings and committee hearings.

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President Trump announced on Friday that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then other high-level officials have also tested positive. Two of them, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, both attended a Rose Garden event late last month where the president formally nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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McConnell hasn’t visited White House in 2 months over lax COVID-19 rules

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he has not been to the White House since August 6, citing the Trump administration’s lax COVID-19 protocols. 
  • “My impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said.
  • The White House is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that’s seen dozens of people contract the virus, including President Donald Trump.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he has not been to the White House in more than two months, suggesting that the Trump administration’s lax COVID-19 protocols make him feel unsafe. 

The Kentucky Republican said that since early August he’s instead opted to speak with President Donald Trump by phone.

“I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky. 

Trump is currently infected with COVID-19 and the White House is dealing with an outbreak that’s seen at least 35 people contract the virus. The list of those who’ve been infected includes the first lady and a number of top aides to the president.  

The infections are largely suspected to be linked to a Sept. 26 event at the Rose Garden where Trump announced that he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Many attendees could be seen without masks and there was a lack of social distancing. A number of those who went to the event, including Republican senators, have since tested positive. 

Though Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 just a week ago, he’s already back in the Oval Office despite the fact that he could still be contagious. Trump spent the weekend at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was transferred after his condition worsened last Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a person with COVID-19 should not be around other people for at least 10 days after symptoms first appear. 

Trump downplayed the threat of COVID-19 for months prior to contracting the virus, and flouted public health recommendations such as wearing a mask and staying six feet away from others. Just two days before he tested positive, the president mocked former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate for routinely wearing a mask. 

It’s unclear whether the next two presidential debates will happen given that Trump has the virus and he rejected the possibility of holding a virtual debate to ensure everyone’s safety. 

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McConnell avoids White House because of its lax response to coronavirus

“Well, look. It won’t surprise you to know we talk frequently — on the phone,” McConnell said in response to a question about Trump’s health. “I haven’t actually been to the White House since August the 6th, because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

McConnell said he thinks Trump, who returned to the White House on Monday after being hospitalized over the weekend, is “perfectly fine.”

“He seems normal,” McConnell said, “and we’ve been discussing the very issues that you all are discussing to me right now.”

McConnell made the remarks at an event at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport where he focused on Cares Act funding.

McConnell has frequently urged lawmakers and others to wear masks, although he has stopped short of implementing a mask mandate on the Senate side of the Capitol. The Senate also instituted other changes beginning in May, including meeting in larger rooms.

Trump is frequently seen without a mask and has mocked those who wear them, including Democratic rival Joe Biden.

In his remarks Thursday, McConnell also appeared to suggest that the White House is now “paying the price” for its approach to masks.

“If any of you have been around me since May the 1st, I’ve said, ‘Wear your mask. Practice social distancing,’ ” McConnell said. “It’s the only way that we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine. And we practice that in the Senate. Now, you’ve heard of other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it.”

Two Republican senators — Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) — tested positive for the novel coronavirus after attending a White House event Sept. 26 where Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Lee and Tillis were seen maskless at events, including an indoor gathering, associated with the announcement.

A third Republican senator, Ron Johnson (Wis.), announced last week that he had contracted the disease. Johnson was not at the White House event.

In his remarks in Kentucky, McConnell also maintained that a vaccine is not likely to be available for widespread use until next year, a message that is at odds with Trump’s recent statements promising the delivery of a vaccine sooner than that.

“This is not over. We’re going to have to work through it,” McConnell said, adding that it’s necessary to “work as safely as possible until we can get our people vaccinated — and that, my friends, is clearly going to be sometime next year.”

Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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