Instead, the two congressional leaders said they want “to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities” battling the Covid-19 outbreak and that lawmakers and congressional staff will use “current testing protocols that the Office of the Attending Physician has put in place until these speedier technologies become more widely available.”
“Congress is grateful for the Administration’s generous offer to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing capabilities to Capitol Hill, but we respectfully decline the offer at this time,” Pelosi and McConnell said in a joint statement issued Saturday. “Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly.”
CNN has reached out to the White House and HHS for comment on the statement.
Many senators fall into the high-risk category for age and pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The White House, in stark contrast, often conducts Covid-19 tests. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are tested regularly — more than weekly — for coronavirus, two senior administration officials told CNN. The White House also tests its senior officials and anyone who regularly comes in contact with the President, including weekly tests for chief of staff Mark Meadows, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and vice presidential chief of staff Marc Short, the officials said.
The White House has been using the rapid Abbott Labs test, two people familiar told CNN.
On Twitter earlier Saturday, Trump assured that there is “tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington” for senators returning Monday.
“Please inform Dr. Brian P. Monahan,” he added.
McConnell told Fox News in an interview Thursday that he believes the chamber can “conduct our business safely.” And Monahan on Friday released guidelines for how the Senate should operate, advising offices to limit the number of staff, avoid gatherings, screen visitors, wear face covers and social distance.
The Senate plans to consider more of Trump’s judicial nominees, which has prompted outcry from Democrats who argue that members should only be reconvening to focus on oversight of the coronavirus response and passing a new relief package.
Trump criticized Pelosi on Twitter earlier Saturday, saying the House should return.
This story has been update to include a joint statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Manu Raju, Kristen Holmes, Kaitlan Collins, Sunlen Serfaty, Haley Byrd, Noah Broder, Jason Hoffman and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.