Mar 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congressman with coronavirus raises constitutional issues on remote voting

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., speaks about Cuba during the House Republicans weekly news conference on Wednesday
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart during a news conference in February. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told NBC Saturday the novel coronavirus is a "tricky bug because just when I thought I was over it or I was pretty close to getting over it, the fever will come back."

Details: The first congress member to announce a positive test result for COVID-19 told "Nightly News" journalist Jose Diaz-Balart, who is his brother, that he's feeling better and believes "the worst part is passed." He also addressed the push for Congress members to vote remotely in light of many being older than 65 and some having pre-existing conditions.

What he's saying: "We clearly have to figure out a way to do this during this very special moment," the congressman said. "However, there are some constitutional questions that have to be answered. The last thing we need to happen is we go through this ... very important package and all of a sudden there's some very important legal challenge.

"I know that the leadership, House and Senate — bipartisan — they're looking at ways to make sure that they keep people safe and allow Congress to proceed, so we just got to make sure it's done right and it's done safely, but also that it's done constitutionally."

Context: Republican and Democratic senators said Saturday they're close to striking a deal for a coronavirus relief package with the estimated value of over $1 trillion that would help businesses and workers.

  • All senators are expected to "review the complete bipartisan text in advance of our first procedural vote" at 3 p.m. Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

Of note: Rep. Ben McAdams, who was the second congress member after Diaz-Balart to announce they'd been diagnosed with COVID-19, told CNN Friday he experienced "really labored breathing." "I feel like I have a belt around my chest, really tight," McAdams said. "When I cough, my muscles are so sore so I just feel pain every time I cough, which is frequently. I feel short of breath, and I have a fever of about 102."

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