Chuck Grassley tests positive for COVID-19, misses a Senate vote for the first time in 27 years

Video still of Sen. Chuck Grassley presiding over the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, Sept. 28, 2018.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Chuck Grassley announced on Twitter he had tested positive for COVID-19. The 87-year-old, who is the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, said he is “feeling good + will keep up on my work for the ppl of Iowa from home” as he self-quarantines.

Grassley’s office disclosed on Tuesday morning, the senior senator was already isolating after learning he had been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, but did not say who he had been in contact with.

Grassley was in the Senate chamber on Monday.

Because he is in self-quarantine, Grassley missed a vote in the Senate for the first time since 1993. Grassley absence from the Senate floor contributed to the defeat of President Trump’s latest nominee to the Federal Reserve Board.

Judy Shelton’s nomination failed after two Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined all the Senate Democrats in opposing making Shelton one of the seven members of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Shelton’s nomination received widespread pushback from economists, because she hold a variety of fringe views on economic matters and is considered someone who would undermine the function of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, she would serve a 14-year term.

Grassley has supported every Trump nominee presented to the Senate for confirmation, and Shelton is no exception. Shelton is also supported by Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who, like Grassley, was absent on Tuesday because he is self-quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure.

If both Grassley and Scott had been present to vote for Shelton, the vote would have been tied, and Vice President Mike Pence would have cast the deciding vote in Shelton’s favor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to reintroduce Sheldon’s nomination again before the end of the year.

Grassley is the second high-profile Iowa Republican to test positive for COVID-19. Last Thursday, Representative-elect Ashley Hinson announced she had the virus. Hinson said she was asymptomatic, but discovered she was positive because the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, required incoming freshmen legislators to be tested before attending orientation classes.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, does not require testing for COVID-19.

Grassley’s current term runs through 2022. In February, Grassley told reporters he hadn’t yet decided whether he would run for reelection. Grassley has been in elected office at the state or federal level continuously since 1959.

Grassley is currently the president pro tempore of the Senate. It is a largely symbolic position, and by a tradition dating back to 1890, it is held by the long-serving member of the majority party. Being president pro tempore does, however, place Grassley third in line for the presidency, behind the vice president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.


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