WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — One of the most powerful U.S. Senators woke up Wednesday morning “and didn’t feel well.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) talked to two doctors and then took a charter flight to South Dakota wearing a mask “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a spokesperson. He also missed a key vote on a muti-trillion dollar aid package late Wednesday, one of several missed votes from Senators in isolation or quarantined due to COVID-19.
“I unfortunately had to miss today’s votes – something I’ve rarely done during my time in Congress,” Thune said in a statement late Wednesday.
Thune’s office said he the doctors encouraged him to continue “self-monitoring.”
“Rest assured, I’ve been in touch with the attending physician at the Capitol and with my doctor in Sioux Falls – both of whom advised that self-quarantine was not required,” Thune said.
He believed it was the right decision to avoid contact will colleagues in Congress.
“Out of caution, Sen. Thune has decided to return home to South Dakota and will continue to consult with his doctor from there,” his communications director Ryan Wrasse said.
Thune is the number two Republican senator, serving as the majority whip. The 59-year-old has served in the Senate since 2005, and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before that.
Wrasse confirmed Thune took a charter flight from Sioux Falls with one member of his Capitol Police security detail. There were no other passengers.
“Out of an abundance of caution, he wore a mask for the duration of the flight,” Wrasse said.
His colleague, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has tested positive for COVID-19. Several other members of the U.S. Senate are in quarantine.
Thune told KELOLAND News on Tuesday he believed he didn’t have any contact which would put him at risk with Sen. Paul.
“I talked to my physician in South Dakota about those interactions and, obviously we want to take full precautions, but most of us here, I think right now, realize that we’ve got to get this done,” Thune said on Tuesday referring the aid package, which has been stalled in Congress.
66 of the 100 Senators are 60 or older, which means they’re at a higher risk of serious complications if they contract COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In recent days, the Senate has taken several steps to avoid the spread, Thune told us.
“Normally we have 15-minute roll call votes in the Senate,” he said. “We’ve extended it to 30.”
That way lawmakers go into the chamber, vote and leave.
He also said they got rid of caucus meetings, and when they do have to talk, it’s either at a distance, over the phone or electronically.
The U.S. Senate passed the historic $2 trillion CARES act late Wednesday.
“Challenging times require swift and bold action from the federal government. That’s why I’m glad the Senate was able to rise above politics and act in a bipartisan way to provide much-needed relief to the American people. The CARES Act will put emergency cash into the hands of American families and workers who need it the most, and it will deliver relief to small businesses to help them and their workers weather this storm. It will take meaningful steps to help stabilize an uneasy economy, provide significant resources to support state unemployment programs, and most importantly, it will continue to deliver resources to the health care workers fighting to stop this pandemic. I hope the House acts on this critical piece of legislation as soon as possible.
The American people have faced obstacles before, but they always rise to the occasion. That’s what we’re seeing today in communities in South Dakota and across the country. Heroes are among us – health care professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and pharmacy clerks. Americans are stepping up and providing for their communities in ways many of us never thought would be necessary. But then again, there’s nothing more American than rising to the occasion and supporting friends, neighbors, and communities in times of need.
I unfortunately had to miss today’s votes – something I’ve rarely done during my time in Congress. I felt under the weather this morning and, out of an abundance of caution, thought it was the responsible decision to avoid contact with my colleagues on Capitol Hill. Rest assured, I’ve been in touch with the attending physician at the Capitol and with my doctor in Sioux Falls – both of whom advised that self-quarantine was not required. Again, out of an abundance of caution, and in accordance with the advice I’ve been giving South Dakotans, I decided that avoiding others was the best option.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
South Dakota’s other U.S. Senator was present for the vote and issued a statement:
As a nation, we’re all feeling the effects of this unprecedented crisis. I’m glad we were able to come together to provide immediate, direct relief to South Dakota families and businesses, while at the same time taking steps to stabilize our economy. It is not a perfect bill, but it gets resources to state and local governments, who know the needs of their communities better than anyone else. It also removes regulatory barriers so businesses can get people the help they need during this time of crisis.
In the history of our nation, we’ve never faced a challenge we weren’t able to overcome. The COVID-19 crisis is no different. No one is immune to the disease or its impact on our everyday lives. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together.
We understand the seriousness of initiating legislation of this magnitude. However, if we fail to act and respond appropriately, the cost to our citizens and our economy as a whole would be devastating
The federal government has a responsibility to act in emergency situations, such as this, to protect lives and safeguard our country from undue harm. Today, the Senate fulfilled this important duty.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Here is our full interview with Thune:
This is a developing story.
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