Mar 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congressman with coronavirus raises constitutional issues on remote voting

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."

Go deeper: Coronavirus hits Congress

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First Congress members test positive for coronavirus

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart speaks during a news conference in February. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) tweeted Wednesday night that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus — hours after Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) announced his results came back positive.

Why it matters: Diaz-Balart and McAdams are the first members of Congress to announce that they have tested positive for the virus, which has infected more than 9,400 people in the U.S. as of early Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 19, 2020 - Health

South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham tests positive for coronavirus

Rep. Joe Cunningham. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) has tested positive for COVID-19, the freshman congressman revealed publicly on Friday.

Where it stands: The 37-year-old is the third known member of the House to contract the virus, after Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) announced they tested positive last week. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the only known senator to have tested positive.

Coronavirus hits Congress

A lone Capitol police officer in an empty corridor of Congress. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

More than a dozen lawmakers have entered voluntary self-quarantine, and more are expected to — seriously testing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proclamation last week that Congress will be "the last to leave."

Why it matters: The Senate is racing to negotiate a "Phase 3" coronavirus relief package that could top $1 trillion.