Rand Paul’s Positive Coronavirus Test Sets the (Still Meeting) Senate on Edge

His aides had never been told Mr. Paul might have been exposed to the virus or had been tested for it, according to a person familiar with the situation, and some began to fear that they could have contracted it and spread it to their friends and family before the office began working remotely, days after Mr. Paul attended the fund-raiser. Mr. Paul attended the fund-raiser on a Saturday and arrived in Washington the next Monday evening. His office closed to work remotely three days later.

Senior officials in Mr. Paul’s Washington office told their staffs that none of them were at risk, the person said. But the aides remained livid that they were informed of Mr. Paul’s exposure only minutes before their office publicly announced his positive test results.

Despite the panic prompted by Mr. Paul’s announcement, on Monday, debate on the Senate floor proceeded mostly as usual — albeit in more fiery terms — with lawmakers filing into the chamber to vote and sitting in their desks next to one another. But the specter of the coronavirus weighed heavily over the proceedings.

As Mr. Durbin concluded a speech with his call for remote voting, Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, approached him. Both men kept their arms crossed, and Mr. Durbin slowly backed away step by step as they spoke, creating more and more distance between them.

Mr. Paul’s announcement appeared to have won over some converts for the idea of remote voting. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who had previously shrugged off the suggestion, took to Twitter to offer his support for the idea.

“We should make this change before the Senate leaves town,” Mr. Graham wrote.

There is no indication that House or Senate leaders are moving toward doing so. A report released Monday night by Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Rules Committee, underscored the hurdles — both technical and legal — such a move would create, and instead recommended using existing practices, like adopting legislation by unanimous consent.

For now, senators are maintaining their routine — albeit from a substantial distance, and under considerably more stress.

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