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Senate Democrats adopted 'Don't test, don't tell' COVID policy to rush through inflation bill: 'You can bring your ventilator and still vote'

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Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Senate Democrats allegedly adopted unofficial new COVID-19 protocols ahead of their push to pass the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

What are the details?

The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, unofficially adopted a "Don't test, don't tell" COVID-19 policy ahead of last weekend's marathon session that resulted in the Inflation Reduction Act being passed.

"They’re not going to delay it if a member has gotten COVID," a top Senate aide told Puck News before the vote. "Counterparts are saying they’re not going to test anymore. It’s not an official mandate but we all know we’re not letting Covid get in the way. The deal is happening. Less testing, just wear masks and get it done."

Another source jokingly told Puck News that if a Democratic senator caught COVID, "you can bring your ventilator and still vote."

The unofficial protocol modification is notable because the Senate, unlike the House, does not permit voting by proxy. Thus, in order to cast a vote, senators must be present in the Senate. Perhaps the protocol change became necessary after multiple Democratic senators tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

More positive tests would have derailed Democrats' plan to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, delaying any potential boost ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

What does this matter?

The purported change underscores hypocrisy from Democrats, especially among those who were critical of Republicans for not enacting or abiding by strict COVID mitigation tactics.

In one specific instance, the Washington Post reported in October 2020 that a COVID outbreak among senators could have derailed the confirmation process of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Post reported the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was then controlled by Republicans, was considering holding a vote "with ill senators voting from the visitors' galleries above the floor so they can maintain distance."

At the time, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is now the Senate majority leader, blasted Republicans for moving forward with Barrett's nomination despite the alleged risks.

"The Republican leadership has truly lost touch with reality if it’s contemplating marching COVID-stricken members to the Senate to rush through a Supreme Court nominee who could strip health care from 20 million Americans," Schumer said.

"Instead of engaging in continuously more absurd and dangerous behavior, Chairman Graham should halt this already illegitimate nomination process, and if he refuses, he must put into place a thorough testing procedure that is in accordance with CDC best practices before hearings can take place," Schumer demanded. "Every Senator and relevant staff must have negative tests on two consecutive days and have completed the appropriate quarantining period, and there should be mandatory testing every day of the hearing."

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