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Senate moderates Manchin and Murkowski each test positive for Covid

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) listens to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as they walk together within the Senate subway on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

WASHINGTON — A resurgence in Covid cases across the nation could impede progress on key bills within the U.S. Senate this week after moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski individually announced Monday that they each have tested positive for the virus.

Their required isolation could set back Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass several key pieces of laws ahead of the long August recess starting in two weeks.

“This morning I tested positive for COVID-19,” Manchin, a Democrat, announced in a tweet. “I’m fully vaccinated and boosted and am experiencing mild symptoms. I’ll isolate and follow CDC guidelines as I proceed to work remotely to serve West Virginians.”

Several hours later, Murkowski, a Republican, tweeted, “After experiencing flu like symptoms I recently tested positive for COVID-19. I will likely be following guidance and advice from doctors and will likely be quarantining at home in Alaska while continuing my work remotely.”

It was unclear Monday exactly what impact Manchin and Murkowski’s required isolation would have on Democrats’ plans to pass several pieces of laws. One is a bill protecting the best to same-sex marriage that may need support from 10 Republicans in an effort to make it to President Joe Biden’s desk, where he is anticipated to sign it. Biden tested positive for Covid last week and is conducting his work while in isolation.

A second bill hanging within the balance is a slimmed-down version of Biden’s “Construct Back Higher” bill, which might require Manchin’s in-person vote in an effort to garner 50 votes from Democrats and trigger a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

That bill would maintain the currently increased medical health insurance subsidies for 2 years, and it will allow Medicare to barter with drugmakers on the price of some prescribed drugs.

Manchin and Murkowski aren’t the one senators currently out with Covid. Democrats Tina Smith of Minnesota and Tom Carper of Delaware announced last week that they’ve tested positive for the virus.

Unlike members of the House of Representatives, senators aren’t allowed to vote remotely by proxy. As a consequence, any time a senator is unable to vote in person their party has one less vote. And in a Senate spilt 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, one vote can mean the difference between legislative success and failure.

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